Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Services Rendered Left a Bit to be Desired

Hey! Did I mention that we were out of town for the weekend? That we took the back roads out of Backroads and headed for Columbia? The occasion was a statewide award event for Genius to receive accolades for being a genius. Him, and 99 of his cohorts from every corner of Missouri.

But we're not here to talk about a nerd convention. Nope. We're here to talk about the ambiance of the lodging. Sorry, I can't work in a statement about how I spent the night at a Holiday Inn Express. I was at the H. I. EXECUTIVE CENTER. Okay. So it's not that special and it's not that accommodating. I'm sure you knew that by the time you got down to this line, because why else would Val be using perfectly good blog space to discuss it, right?

I booked a mini suite because how often do you attend your son's genius convention? We had a sitting room with a fold-out couch, two puffy chairs, an ottoman, a desk, a rolly chair, two end tables, three lamps, and a big wall-mounted flat-screen TV. Whoa. It feels like I'm doing my end-of-the-year inventory already. The bedroom harbored a king-size bed with four flat pillows, a tiny upended shoebox of a closet, a mini fridge, a microwave, a dresser, two end tables, three lamps, and a flat-screen TV on the dresser. We'll get to the bathroom in a minute, as it is the cornerstone of Val's complaint manifesto.

Let the record show that neither TV worked. Lucky for us we had a Genius along. He fiddled with some hanging-down wires and a black box thingy on the giant wall-mounted TV and brought it to life. The remote, however, was deader than a doornail. I didn't use those words with Genius around, because that always fuels an argument over the merits of "doornail" and "door knob." When Hick tried the bedroom TV, he was rewarded with the blue screen of death. Genius fiddled and faddled with the cable box thingy until it displayed its channels. Left to our own devices, Hick and I would have gone out for Reynolds Wrap, fashioned some rabbit ears, and put them on Hick's head while he stood like an ample-drumsticked, pale, yoga-posing flamingo while trying to get reception.

After putting on their thinking caps, one being a Jed Clampett design, and the other a six-paneled, multicolored beanie with a propeller on top, the guys deduced that the remotes had been switched. From then on, we had a sitting room remote that worked, and a bedroom remote that was still dead.

The bathroom was a deathtrap. The tan tile floor was suitable for Nancy Kerrigan to skate upon just prior to collapsing in a pile of WHY after a vicious Gilloolying. I first ventured onto the killing floor in my well-worn New Balances. Bambi on ice was more sure-footed than I. Lucky for me, there was a sink counter I could grab to pull myself along like a beginning skater at the roller rink. I warned Hick, who scoffed, right before poorly executing a flying camel. "Something's not right!" Genius and his Adidas performed a lunge from door to second sink, and concurred.

Always the problem-solver, I ventured forth in my dress-up shoes. Not a good move. I tried sock feet, and almost split myself in half. Even bare feet could not get traction on that slippery non-slope. Hick grabbed a washcloth while holding on for dear life with his other hand. He used a foot to mop the floor with his damp implement. He swore that the cleaning staff had sprayed something on the tile to make it shiny. He declared that his treatment restored traction. I assure you, it did not. Rising from the toilet required more coordination and energy than a triathlon.

I think I have figured out the corporate benefit of the slick floor. We were unable to load up our bags with the tiny complimentary shampoo, lotion, mouthwash, and conditioner set out for each of our three paid adult fares.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Val Puts the Passive in Aggressive

I took a personal day off work today to recover from our cross-state trip to see Genius receive his Missouri Scholars 100 award on Sunday. Still, I got up as usual to take The Pony to school.

Coasting down a residential street at the allotted speed limit, I had to yank my vehicle over the center line to avoid a scofflaw. A young man in a red sports car thought he was going to run a stop sign and shoot across my street. He almost T-boned the passenger side of T-Hoe. I had the audacity to block his path. As I made the half-circle to avoid his jutting bumper, at least a car-length past the stop sign and three feet into my lane, I turned to glare at him. Wouldn't you? Or are you, perhaps, some lily-livered pansy who hasn't a drop of road rage coursing through your veins? Along with my glower, I said, "Seriously?" Of course he couldn't hear me. But something tells me he saw me. Because instead of squealing on about his business and crossing over the street to his intended destination, he pulled out behind me. Like a mouse after the cheese in my trap.

You know I am a law-abiding citizen. I always drive the posted 30 mph on that street. No need to gas gas gas, brake brake brake on that section. It's only three blocks, and a slight downhill grade. I let gravity be my fuel. Besides, a sheriff's deputy must live at the end of that road, because his car is always parked in the driveway.

Redcar Man attached himself to my bumper. Some might have termed what he was doing "tailgating." I was in no hurry, not needing to be at work, only dropping off The Pony. I daresay I might have let my speed fall to 29 mph. At the stop sign, I made sure to come to a complete halt. I looked left. Right. Left again. Then I made my right turn.

Redcar Man was not going my way. He burned his tires and careened left, in front of the deputy's house. So sad to report there was no poetic justice. At least I revel in the fact that I cost him valuable time and made him veer off course, all for his petty revenge in being caught law-breaking.

Val Thevictorian. Teaching road rules etiquette one driver at a time.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Like a Slice of Buttered Toast Falling Buttered-Side Down

I have a small confession. Tiny, really. Inconsequential. But I must let my dastardly deed see the light of day. Air it out like dirty laundry. Cleanse my palate of the bad taste it's left in my mouth.

There was no plan to carry out this inadvertent act of marital sabotage. It was just a happy accident. There I was in the walk-in shower, surveying the items resting on top of the door frame, contemplating why my tube of hair conditioner seems to have become anorexic of late. If she was Jethro Bodine, she would have to tighten her rope belt a couple of knots. I know that Hick has been using it. And he has hardly any hair! He tries to be tricky, flattening out the tube from the bottom. Not like the way he squeezes the toothpaste in the middle. But he can't fool me. I do not use conditioner at that alarming rate.

Funny thing. As I reached for my flattened friend, my hand must have hit Hick's blue disposable razor. That, or Razor suddenly decided he was not good enough for this world any more, and flung himself over the side without having the common courtesy to leave a note.

Upon exiting the shower, I searched for Razor's remains. He was not on the floor. Not shattered, not broken, not bruised. I looked more thoroughly, though I stopped short of calling in a search dog. Razor was a real nowhere man. No part of him was in evidence. I went on about my post-shower business. After dressing and combing my freshly-conditioned hair, I turned to give one last cursory glance toward the shower.

There he was! Razor was in the corner, between the shower and the toilet, up in that ninety-degree angle formed by the shower base and outer bathroom wall. Yes, there he reclined, all smug and camouflaged, his dark blue plastic blending with the pattern of the toilet brush upon which he perched. There. I said it. Hick's razor was laying on top of the toilet brush.

I thought of throwing it away and putting out a new one. They're disposable, you know. Hick would never know the difference. Until he cut his throat with a brand-new razor that he assumed was the broken-in one he had been using. No. Better not subject Hick to a slashed carotid artery. I grabbed Razor between my thumb and forefinger and put him back on top of the shower door. It was a new toilet brush, I'm sure. The tag was still on the handle with one of those plastic thread thingies. I doubt it has even been used yet.

What Hick doesn't know won't hurt him.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Artist as a Questionably-Young Woman

You know how sometimes, everything falls into place without effort, without conscious thought? You just do it. Easy peasy. Like an Olympic-caliber rhythmic gymnast, twirling and swirling that ribbon-on-a-stick in a gold-medal-worthy performance, relying on adrenaline, muscle memory, and three Tic Tacs chased by Crystal Light. I had a moment like that yesterday. Several moments, to be exact. Almost an hour.

There was tale I wanted to share, though not here, because I DO try to separate parts of my working life from my internet life. The thoughts flowed like milk out of a carton carried by a helpful butterfingered toddler. I grabbed my little notebook to capture my thoughts before they vaporized like a dream an hour after awakening. That's what I have to do if I'm not at my basement lair keyboard when the muse comes calling. Yesterday, Musie caught me on the toilet. Oh, stop your grimacing! Stop gouging your eyes and screaming, "TMI! TMI!" I was not on the business end of the toilet. I was sitting on the lid. With a cushiony towel further softening the surface for my ample buttocks. Fully-clothed, buttocks, I might add.

Sometimes, I go into the master bathroom to grab a moment of peace from making other people's sandwiches, or acting as an earpiece for other people's boasts of bargains bartered for at auction. It's a peaceful room, all forest green tile and patterned wallpaper, roomy, with a big triangle tub and walk-in closet. With the exception of that short interlude of mice in the exhaust fan/light, and telltale blood smears after their dispatch...it's a relaxing retreat. Yesterday, I was there to coat my tresses with the shellac of youth. We're going to a major event to honor Genius for being named to the Missouri Scholars 100, and I don't want people to think that Grant Woods used me as the model for American Gothic.

Yes, I was in the zone. On fire. Like Johnny, rosining up his bow, telling The Devil down in Georgia that he's the best that's ever been. Similes rained from my brain to the pen like dollar bills from the hand of a fan onto the head of a Saturday night stripper. If only there was somewhere I could submit this masterpiece, I thought. It would surely win a contest, or be published, and bring me fame. But I'd better keep it secret, because if I'm famous, the person who was the inspiration might read it, and I'll be up spit creek in hot water without a paddle. And might hurt some feelings. Yes, it's best to let it languish in obscurity, even though it is SO good that the great literary masters would weep with joy upon reading it, and possibly want to plagiarize me, if it were not for that unfortunate dead thing they've got going on.

I read over that new classic this morning, on my supersecret blog. It is total crap. The universe has assigned a certain symmetry to my toilet masterpiece.

Friday, April 26, 2013

You Never Know WHAT You're Going To Find Along the Back Roads of Backroads

The most recent floodwaters have receded from the babbling brook that runs along our gravel road. The runoff is on its way to the Pacific Ocean by way of the Gulf of Mexico Watershed. It has, however, left a lasting impression on the landscape.

When we drive along the creek, The Pony and I often spot large, long-legged birds who sometimes gather their gangly limbs and take flight. We see cottontails hippity-hopping across the potholed gravel. Snakes on tree branches peering in the window. Turkeys stepping methodically through the fallen leaves. Deer flipping us the white tail while bounding from one copse of trees to another. The one thing you really don't want to hear from your kid as you putt-putt along at ten miles per hour is:

"Oh, hey! There's that bear."

Let the record show that a bear WAS spotted in town, in a neighborhood we drive through on the way to school. It happened a year or two ago. Several people made reports, not just one crazy old coot with a moonshine habit. I have seen a bear in the wilds of southern Alaska. Yet I was rattled to hear The Pony announce THIS bear. I gazed out the passenger window. Across the creek. Into the saplings and broken rocks lining the edge. Thinking, perhaps, it had come to drink.

"Where? I don't see a bear."

"There. On that limb. The one I told you about last week. It's back."

Somebody has a kind of warped sense of humor. And somebody really needs to schedule an appointment with an optometrist. Because that's a BUNNY, not a bear.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Crime Means Always Having to Say You're Sorry

Let's stop making excuses. People need to take responsibility for their actions. "My bad!" is not good enough. We're not toddlers. Apologizing does not make your offense disappear any more than kissing a dislocated elbow aligns the bones and ligaments again.

This morning I saw a story on the news about a dude who entered the wrong house and took a shower. According to the report, Dude entered a neighbor's house. Or not. Because he lived a couple of streets over, and he and the homeowner had never met. Not exactly what I would call a neighbor. Someone from the area, perhaps. But not a neighbor you might borrow a cup of sugar from, or pick up the mail for when they're out of town.

Not only did Dude take an illicit shower, he kicked in the door, rummaged through the silverware drawer, and rattled some doorknobs. The homeowner woke up to the door-kicking and locked herself in her daughter's room. Or not. Because the report quoted the woman as holding onto the door as tight as she could. Not a very good lock. She called 9-1-1. The police arrived and didn't let Dude use a towel.

According to the report, Dude had been drinking "several pitchers of hard liquor" at a nearby bar until 4:00 a.m., then walked to this house, thinking it was his own. Gosh. Several pitchers of hard liquor! Dude can put it away! And of course, everybody knows that you kick in your own front door every time you go home. And take silverware with you to the shower.

Anyway, in spite of the issues I have with this news report, the Dude situation became even more interesting when the station quoted "Dude's Father." That's what it said under the written statement in a box on the TV screen. "Dude's Father." Not Mr. Richard Dude. Simply "Dude's Father."

The statement made by Dude's Father purported that Dude is a really nice guy who is really sorry and embarrassed. He will be going back to college to study business. And he will not be drinking any more adult beverages. “It’s unfortunate; he’s a really good kid. It was a freak accident and he feels bad about it.”

Seriously, Dude's Father? The train has already left the station. Let Dude apologize for himself. His picture was flashed on the screen about ten times, along with his name. He's not anonymous. The fact that he's appearing before a judge in June means that this was more than a freak accident. It was not a cute little misunderstanding. Dude kicked in a door and was found naked in a stranger's house.

People really need to take responsibility for their own actions.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

From the Entity That Brought You the Clanging Phantom Can

Last night I fell asleep in my basement recliner. It happens all the time. One minute I'm watching a DVR of The Naked Castaway, and the next minute I'm waking up with my neck all cricked to the right. Still, I'm in a recliner. Not wearing a grass skirt (false advertising, Discovery Channel), sleeping all contorted in a cave with goat droppings as bedding.

I require the proper ambient lighting for my chair naps. The overhead lights go off, and a table lamp on my right and a gooseneck fluorescent floor lamp behind my recliner go on. Most often courtesy of The Pony. He carries out the TV-watching protocols.

Between 10:00 and 10:30 I call my mom so she can ask me if everybody's alright. I try to get off the phone by 10:30 so I have time for my before-bed unplanned nap. Last night fell I asleep around 11:20, and woke up at 1:15. First I try to orient myself. Like, is this the weekend, or do I have to go to work in a few hours? Last night, something was amiss. The dark. The basement was too dark. The TV was on. And my table lamp. But the gooseneck was off. I was a bit cranky about that loss of illumination. Now I would have to ask Hick to find out what kind of bulb that lamp needed. I can't go without my gooseneck. It's been with me for years. My mom had one, and liked it so much that she gave one to me and one to my sister the ex-mayor's wife for Christmas. Now mine was kaput. And Sis's probably still shone with impertinence on that non-reader.

I walked across the basement, past the pool table, to flip on the overhead lights on the wall beside the piano. Then I circled back to that gooseneck. I figured I should turn off the switch for when Hick put in a new bulb. I pushed on that lever AND THE LIGHT CAME ON! Someone, or something, had pushed that lever from ON to OFF while I slept with my reclined head only inches away. Is the hair on the back of your neck standing up yet? Like mine was last night? I knew that Hick had already gone to bed before I got off the phone with Mom. The Pony went to bed at 9:00. Genius was in the shower at 10:30, and goes to bed after that. WHO TURNED OFF MY GOOSENECK?

Tonight The Pony and I were on our own. Hick and Genius went to Cape Girardeau for Genius to compete with the school academic team in the state sectionals. We watched Survivor as usual. Then The Pony went upstairs to run a bath in the big triangle tub. "Hey! It's not even dark outside yet!" I heard him puttering around overhead, gathering his pajamas, getting ice from the freezer door. Then he was back. I saw his bare feet, then legs, descend the stairs.

"Um. Look what I found under the edge of the railing." The railing that runs along two sides of the rectangle where the stairs come down from the living room floor. He held out a palomino-colored leather disk about the diameter of a softball. Hick picked it up at one of his many tool show visits. He uses it for a coaster on the table beside his La-Z-Boy upstairs. That might be the real purpose of that disk, or not. It is engraved with a tool company logo.

The hair on my neck saluted again. The Pony's voice quavered. The stair railing is on the opposite side of the living room from the table that houses the disk. Fifteen to twenty feet away. Over carpet. It's not like that thing fell and rolled. Not like we picked it up on a bare foot or shoe sole and carried it and deposited it UNDER the bottom rung of that stair railing.

At this rate, I'm going to have to invest in a good depilatory for my neck hairs.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

If You Wanna Get To Heaven...You Gotta Raise a Big Caprice Classic

A member of our Backroads family is failing. Has become enfeebled in his prime. I don't want to mention his name, what with medical records and confidentiality issues. Let's just call him T-Hoe. I've been thinking about him all day. Especially during testing this morning, when all I had to do was maintain visual contact with the backs of students typing madly on computer lab keyboards, feverishly completing their state standardized tests. Yes, while enforcing the No Looking Off Your Neighbor Rule, I was consumed with concern for T-Hoe...

5% battery life. T-Hoe is languishing in the parking lot, draped over yellow lines and a concrete curb stopper parking block thingy, like a limp clock in a Salvador Dali painting. If only Hick had persistence of memory. The mental faculty. Not the Dali painting. Not-Heaven's Bells! He'd probably fix those pliable, gravity-challenged timepieces so they stood ramrod straight, and ran like clockwork.

Yes, if Hick could remember when it was time to change T-Hoe's oil, he wouldn't be in this condition. T-Hoe, that is. As far as I know, Hick is not draped across the school parking lot at this time.

Now T-Hoe has clogged arteries. He needs a transfusion. New blood. So he doesn't throw an oil clot and have a transmission attack. He needs some clean crude 10W30 coursing through his pipes. That would make him feel his RPMs. Put the spark back in his plugs. Enable him to jump those concrete curb stopper parking block thingies in a single bound.

They're not meant for that, you know. Those concrete curb stopper parking block thingies are actually meant to STOP the car. I'm surprised you didn't catch that in the name.

Tell that to my old college friend, Jerri. The Arkansas Flower. She wasn't really a bloomin' flower. No more a flower than comedian Brett Butler was an example of grace under fire. That's simply the nickname she used for herself. She drove a maroon 1970s model Caprice Classic four door that was not a thing of beauty. One particular Saturday evening in the fall of 19BLAHBLAHBLAH, The Arkansas Flower used that vehicle to purvey six girls across campus lanes to an Ozark Mountain Daredevils concert. It was a big deal, what with our university located in the very stomping grounds of OMD.

Never mind that the distance the Arkansas Flower had to park from the concert venue was equal to the distance from our dorm, although in the opposite direction. It is definitely not cool to walk to a concert. Getting there is half the fun. Like Arkansas Razorback tailgaters, the concertmate crew prepared for that Ozark Mountain Daredevils event all day. Perhaps, or perhaps not, with various and assorted inhalants, potables, and ingestibles.

The Arkansas Flower piloted that Caprice Classic into the parking space with six girls caterwauling OMD songs at the tops of their polluted lungs. She launched that behemoth over the yellow concrete curb stopper parking block thingy like a Saturn V rocket headed for the moon. Unintentionally. Six carefully coiffed heads slammed into the roof of the rolling party cruiser. Twelve eyes locked onto each other. Six hearts thumped in six throats as six semi-lucid concertgoers jumped out four doors to survey what the Arkansas Flower had wrought.

Did you know that ten girlish hands can lift the front end of a 1970s model Caprice Classic over a concrete curb stopper parking block thingy?

T-Hoe still needs oil.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Rotten to the Mower

Our egg drought is over. Instead of one or two eggs a day, The Pony is now finding nine or ten. That's seventy eggs a week, people. I'm going to need Hick to build a little shack onto the side of my proposed handbasket factory so I can open a specialty restaurant. Imagine the possibilities! Hard-boiled eggs, soft-boiled eggs, fried eggs, scrambled eggs, poached eggs, raw eggs, egg salad, deviled eggs, pickled eggs. Omlettes. Toys for the kiddos! Eggs soaked in vinegar until they bounce like rubber balls. Old-fashioned milk bottles to drop a lit match into, so a peeled hard-boiled egg will suck itself down into the bottle when placed on top. Personalized specialty spoons for egg racers. I'll do for eggs what Bubba Gump did for shrimp!

My egg shack will need a catchy name. I'm leaning towards "Egghead's Egg Shed." But that could just be an equilibrium problem. When my head clears and I'm on even keel again, I'll revisit the name game.

Last night, Hick called me from the front yard. What? You think we're some kind of triathloners in training? Or working out with Izzy Mandelbaum? A Thevictorian would never hop off the Gator and run into the house when a phone call can achieve the same result. Besides, with the price we pay on phones, we might as well suck all the use out of them that we can.

"Send The Pony out here."


"There's a dead chicken under the lawnmower."

"I don't really think he'll want to see that. Didn't he see enough corpses the summer you put him on the chicken deathwatch, after you let those auction chickens in without quarantine, and slowly killed all the leghorns?"

"Send him out."

I did. While wondering if Hick or Genius had been mowing. Had there been a decapitation? A case of yard rage? Did a chicken take yard-crossing lessons from a possum down the road? The door slammed. Apparently, the fowl postmortem had concluded. "What's going on with the chicken?"

"Huh. Yesterday I found about thirty eggs under the lawnmower. Dad threw them all away, because we didn't know how long they'd been there. We can't find all their laying places."

"What's with the dead chicken?"

"Um. It was under the lawnmower. Right by where I found the eggs."

"Did a dog get it? How did it die?"

"We don't know. Dad said it was covered with maggots."

"And you didn't notice it when you pulled thirty eggs out from there?"

"No. I was looking for eggs. Not chickens. I can't believe I failed to see or smell the rotting chicken!"

I knew a trip to the optometrist was on the agenda. Perhaps I need to look into an ear/NOSE/throat specialist as well.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Please Refrain From Casting Stones, Lest One Bounce Off Me and Into Your Glass House

This is one of those posts that is likely to plunge Val into hot water. To elicit a flaming-torch-brandishing mob to call for Val's head on a silver platter, which they will then tip into a pot of boiling oil. Indeed, it is one in which Val tippy-toes along the razor wire of the high tightrope without a net, suspended over a moat of tooth-gnashing crocodiles with anger issues. So let's get right to it.

Last week, I mentioned the illustrious youth baseball career of the early-elementary Pony. How he was not exactly a star athlete, and played on a team of scrubs in a league that allowed every player to bat at least once every inning, and did not keep score. Let's revisit those days of yesteryear, when everyone was a winner, and all players were equal.

On The Pony's team were twin girls who were differently-abled. I don't know the nature of their abledness. They had some motor control issues, but were ambulatory and playing with full decks. Sweet girls, really, as best I could tell about somebody else's kids in which I don't have a vested interest. I make this determination based on the facts that they got along with the other kids, didn't have temper tantrums, didn't swear like sailors through hand-rolled cigarettes dangling from their lips, and didn't show up all painted like harlots in platform heels, halter tops, and gold lame' miniskirts. They came to practices and every game just like the other kids, and looked like Bobblehead Dolls in the batting helmets just like The Pony and his other teammates, but were a little more frail.

Now I shall enter forbidden territory. The coach always batted the Bobblehead Twins 3rd and 4th in the lineup. Anybody who knows anything about a batting sport knows that your power hitters go there. The Bobblehead Twins were not power hitters. In fact, they did not seem to enjoy batting very much at all. They would come to the plate, look into the bleachers at their mom, and give a body-heaving sigh. If not holding a bat, I'm sure they would have given her the WTF, palms-up, shoulder shrug.

I'm not lobbying for my own Pony, wishing he would have been batting 3rd or 4th in the order. As Tom Cullen would say, "Laws, no! M-O-O-N. That spells, 'The Pony was a terrible batter, and belonged next-to-last in the lineup every week.'" He was barely better than the kid after him, who stepped behind the plate every single time, facing the pitcher, and had to be stood to the side by the umpire. No way would I have wanted my boy any earlier, with a chance of batting more than once per inning, with me having to listen to the parents who forgot who he belonged to complain how he NEVER hit the ball. They must have thought their kid was playing in some We Actually Give A Crap Who Wins league.

My question is, why did the coach put these two girls so early in the batting order? Was he bending over backwards to be politically correct? Was he patronizing them? Did he think he was building their self-esteem? Did he fancy himself to be their physical therapist? Because trust me, those girls were not headed to the major leagues. They rarely hit the ball. I think their main enjoyment came from picking dandelions in the outfield, wearing their uniform, and having snow cones after the game. Just like The Pony, with the exception of the uniform. If the coach was trying to make them better batters, why didn't he move that pitcher-facer up from the bottom of the order?

Because everybody was supposed to bat every inning, the Bobblehead Twins sometimes were required to bat TWICE every inning, when the opponents had a lot of players and we had to go back though our order. You would think that coach would have rotated part of the batting order each game. Not his kid, who batted first, because he was a really good batter. But the others were mostly interchangeable, and several hit the ball more than the Bobblehead Twins. No need to put those little gals up there ten times a game when they did not seem to enjoy the batting part.

What say you? Am I being unreasonable? Is this something that should not be questioned? Can you think of a reason that coach batted those girls 3rd and 4th all season? Or why he kept them together as a pair? I must be missing his point.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

In the Spring, a Young Man's Fancy Lightly Turns to Thoughts of White Shoes

Genius is off to the prom tonight, resplendent in his cream-colored tux with the cornflower blue tie. And black shoes.

It seems that SOMEBODY around here neglected to procure white shoes. Not the SOMEBODY who really needs to wash the dishes, make a sandwich, do the laundry, hand out money, buy some deodorant, straighten the house for a girlfriend's visit, give permission to leave school for two hours to have lunch at a Mexican restaurant, and stop turning on the light at 6:45 every morning. No. The SOMEBODY responsible for complementary footwear is the one who should have thought about renting them with the tux, and ordering his date a corsage.

Seriously. Genius told me on Thursday that he needed white shoes. Like I was Geppetto, and could whittle him a pair overnight. How am I supposed to find white shoes in two days? I suggested that he call the tux rental shops and see if they had any. Huh. That was the stupidest thing he had ever heard. "Mom. They don't just have shoes sitting around. You have to order them when you rent your tux." Nor did he cotton to the idea of checking out various shoe and department stores. But of course, telling your mom Geppetto is reasonable, because she can simply carve a pair in between appendages for her wooden son, who may lie like the dickens, but will find a way to get his own white shoes by hook or by crook, without burdening his mother.

His date had the idea of both of them ordering cornflower blue Converse, but changed her mind upon checking prices. At least she had the foresight to think of her tootsie-covers. She probably should have thought about picking somebody's Easter lilies for a corsage while she was at it. Genius assured me that she would not miss a corsage. He also neglected to get her one last year. I don't suppose she'll lapse into a coma from the shock. Even though she's not his girlfriend, he DID spring for her ticket, and will be footing (in his black shoes) the dinner bill. Though he might have an ulterior motive in urging her to fill up at the prom's chocolate fountain AND cheese fountain.

I hope they have a wonderful, memorable time.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Keep Manhattan Just Give Me That Old Mudslide

Is this any way to run an electric company?

First of all, that's not our creek. Secondly, we did not lose power. By a miracle, I suppose. I question the placement of those giant line-holders. These power lines probably feed our power lines. This was a tiny little creek we passed over on our way to the bank. Tiny little creeks don't always stay tiny.

The Pony and I were too discombobulated to take pictures of our own creek bridge. The one that had cones and orange death-tape keeping fools away from the edge. Apparently, a major run-off calamity had caused the earth to begin eroding on the down-creek side, just behind our mailbox row. Oh, and there was that issue of our gravel road being under two inches of still water running shallow from the hillside, since MoDOT put in the new bridge, destroyed our road, and neglected to replace a two-foot diameter culvert pipe.

Our creek was down this afternoon, allowing us to use our regular route to and from town again. Except there was a mudpile 18 inches high on one end, and a coating of mud like a landslide covering the blacktop on the other side. Well. We went through it. That's what 4WD is for. For nearly severing your cervical spine as your head whips side-to-side while you thread your Tahoe's tires through the ruts and gas it to get over.

Brooowwwwn Acres is the place to be. Farm livin' is the life for me...

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The New Backroadsian Dictionary

Tweet! Tweet! I'm not talking about the social networking site. It's the Grammar Police, y'all, back to issue some citations to those young whippersnappers who never probably even had to learn cursive in elementary school, what with technology rearing its attention-demanding head. They cut their teeth on tiny telephone keypads, and revel in showing off their mad word skillz in comment sections everywhere. Everywhere except Val's blog. Because Val has old-school spellers.

Do these folks ever read books? Newspapers? Do they have a nodding acquaintance with Webster's, or Funk and Wagnalls? Have they never read a movie title? A first aid book? The recall list for various food manufacturers? Have they heard of this newfangled Dictionary.com thing? Or even my BFF Google?

Here are today's top three offenders:




Yeah. I suppose you can psychically decipher each one. But I have chosen instead to make my own definition. Okay, at first I was going to make my one defintion. But THAT was just a faulty-fingered typing error. I know how to spell it. Really.

Botchalism - noun. A common disease caused by incompetence, which renders every task attempted by the infectee a messed-up exercise in futility.

Pick-a-nick - noun. A carnival game in which the shill entices the mark to put his money down and guess the combined number of shaving mishaps on the newly-groomed Jo Jo the Dogfaced Boy and the Ex-Bearded Lady.

Turnicate - adj. The curlicued pattern of swirls carved into the upper leg area of dining room tables. "The turnicate design was wasted under the drape of the Thanksgiving tablecloth."

There. You're welcome.

Val enjoys short walks nowhere near the beach, fluffy kitties, 44 oz. Diet Cokes, and wordsmithing in her spare time.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Working to Keep Living

Val is hot to trot this evening.

I'm not talking about an inappropriate interlude with a dude picked up in a bar at closing time. Nope. I'm breathing fire. Snorting flames. My blood is boiling. I'm about to blow my stack. To let out a shrill whistle like the end-of-shift signal down at the Shotz Brewery.

My pharmacy has changed hands. It has gone from a Mom and Pop kind of drugstore to a Doom and Poop kind of place. The official takeover happened three weeks ago. Surely they would have the new procedures in place by now. Last time I tried to call in my refills, that automated phone would not recognize me. So I had to talk to a person. Everything went fine with the pickup.

Monday I tried to call in my prescriptions. No. I needed a person because the phone had never heard of my prescription numbers. All lines busy. Got through, put on hold. Got a person who took info because the computer would not take my vitals. It took twenty-five minutes to set up my refills by phone! Tuesday, I was too busy to pick up my prescriptions. Today, Wednesday, I called ahead at 10:00 a.m. Yes. They were ready. There was a slight glitch with one for Genius, but they fixed it. Said everything would be available by 11:30 a.m.

I stopped by at 4:53 p.m. Got in line. The aisles are like cattle chutes now. One main line to pick up prescriptions, but to get anywhere near the other parts of the counter, you have to find an empty chute. I waited twenty minutes before getting to the counter. Then another twenty-five while one thing or another went wrong. The girl grabbed the bags out of the alphabetized plastic tubs behind the counter. She went to ring them up, but one wouldn't work. Oops! They hadn't applied insurance to mine, even though they had to the one for Genius. Then they discovered that they had given me 90-day bottles instead of 30-day. Then they had to check one prescription with the pharmacist. Then I discovered that they had substituted a generic to which I am allergic. Then they lost my insurance cards. Then they told me I might as well sit down, because they had to recount my pills.

Seriously. This chain has a problem. They don't have four-dollar generics. Even though I am covered by two insurance policies, they will only run the prescriptions on the primary card. The sixteen employees who remained from the old store have not been able to master the new computer program. Sixteen people who have worked in a pharmacy for years. It's not like they're a busload of non-English-speakers just arrived at the sheltered workshop.

This visit took over an hour, and cost me $22 dollars more than last month. Over an hour to walk in and pick up prescriptions that were "ready" after two days and two phone calls totaling thirty-five minutes. I could have found a group of black-market foreign-country toddlers to make my medicine for five dollars, the equivalent of a year's pay in their nation, quicker than the drawn-out torture I was subjected to by this new chain.

I am ready to join three other patrons I know who have taken their business elsewhere.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Maybe I'll Put It on a T-Shirt to Sell in My Proposed Handbasket Factory

Perhaps I've let it slip here that I do not suffer tailgaters gladly.

I'm not talking about those fun-loving, perhaps borderline alcoholic, sports fans who roast a pig (sorry, University of Arkansas), or grow, harvest, and grind wheat into flour to make their own pasta primavera, or serve up an elegant herb-crusted rack of lamb from the blacktop backlot of a football stadium. They can stand clear. I have no business with them today.

No, I'm jawing about the aggressive folks in tiny sardine-can cars who lodge their front bumper under my back one and hang on like an acrophobic to a guard rail on top of the Grand Canyon. Please note that I do not try to shake them loose. In fact, I grow more cautious. They are dangerous, you see, there in my partial blind spot, weaving in and out like they're threatening to pass on curvy two-lane blacktop. I know they're not going anywhere. Not until I get out of the way. There's no reason to speed up. I could approach the sound barrier, and they would want to go hit warp speed.

Yes, I grow more cautious. I drive the speed limit. Not a mile per hour over. Obey the letter of the law. To be safe, you see. Twenty miles per hour? I shall not be racing through the subdivision at twenty-one. Speed kills, jerk! Just ask Jamie Lee Curtis's sidekick in Halloween. I'm not a taillight-flasher or a brake-slammer. I simply drive at the legally-posted speed. Some might call me passive-aggressive. I prefer to call me alive.

The Pony is onto Val's Rules of the Road. He actually created a slogan for me during today's game of tortoise and cheetah.

"Following the law just to annoy people behind you. The best America has to offer."

Monday, April 15, 2013

I Get By With a Little Plagiarizing From my Friends

I sat down here with nothing in mind to write about.

I suppose it's too much to ask the noise-making entity to rattle some chains, just so I will have a good story. And I certainly don't want that bungee-jumping pregnant spider to drop in with all of her 1,000,000 baby paratroopers springing off as she slams into the Puffs With Aloe box. Nor do I feel like a verbal jousting match with Genius. My old stand-by, Hick, had his turn only yesterday. So that leaves me with the placid Pony, and a bit of inspiration I got from my blog buddy, the Cranky Old Man himself, Joe H.

Let's make one thing clear: my kids are not athletes. Mathletes, yes. But not athletes. We had not quite come to terms with this fact when they were small. Sure, The Pony was not competitive, and preferred a GameBoy to a bat. That didn't stop us from signing him up for the town baseball league. It was not Little League. As Tom Cullen might say, "Laws, no! M-O-O-N. That spells The Pony understands baseball like a fish understands how to repair the bicycle he doesn't need."

Not only were we lax in teaching The Pony the basics of America's favorite pastime, we were lax in signing him up for the summer league. So lax, in fact, that our neighbors, whose son bowled in The Pony's league, called to ask if we wanted him drafted on a team that night at the meeting. We said yes. So clueless were we that we missed the subtle signs that our boy was no Mark-McGwire-in-the-making. Like facing the reality that the neighbor, who knew The Pony, had set him up on the leftover team. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It was made of kids nobody else at the meeting wanted, and designated for the coach who was with his son at the Little League meeting.

The town league had their own field, three diamonds worth, totally on the other side of town from where Little League played. The teams had uniforms, used a ball and bat and gloves, and that's where any resemblance to Little League ended. Score was not kept. Every player batted every inning. That's right. The whole order. If the other team had fourteen players, and your team had ten, then the top four in the order batted twice. Fair is fair. The coach of each team pitched to his own players.

The Pony made quite a name for himself. They tried to hide him in right field, but he faced the back fence and threw blades of grass into the air. Assigned to second base, he shoved every opposing player off the bag. "I'm second base!" he informed the world. We thought he might stay out of trouble at third base. Hick stood along the edge of the field to keep him focused. Until The Pony disappeared when Hick's back was turned. Don't worry. He showed up on first base, scuffling with the regular first baseman. After a round of chastising, he stated, "Nobody ever throws the ball to third. But they ALWAYS throw the ball to first." I'm sure that was a shocking revelation for him. Especially since he liked to run to third on the rare occasion when he made contact with the ball. And not by way of first. The last resort was placing The Pony behind the coach-pitcher. I don't know what that position was called. If the actions of The Pony were any indication, I would say that he played, Coach-Imitating Dirt-Thrower.

His career ended when he came down with a case of Idontwannaplayitis. I'm all for making my kids follow through with what they start. But after two years of this torture, I didn't see the point.

I think they retired his number. In what may or may not have been a fiery, celebratory ceremony.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Say It With a Box of Meat

Some people are just too nice.

Yeah. I know you are all thinking about me. My name simply jumps into people's heads when nicety is mentioned. "That Val! She is such a NICE person. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that she exhales the aroma of fresh-baked cookies (chocolate chip!), perspires a simple sugar solution that results in a coat of many hummingbirds, poots gumdrops, and leaves footprints of marzipan wherever she steps. She's a sweetie!" I won't refute your opinion.

But enough about me. The subject today is my much-maligned husband, Hick. Oh, don't think I plan to stop maligning him! Where's the fun in THAT? I merely wish to give a glimpse into the soul of my intrepid junk-trader.

Hick goes to the auction two or three times a week. Not the same auction. I don't even know where they are. He manages to make time for them between his flea market and Goodwill runs. This bargain-hunting behavior is his hobby, not his full-time job. Ever-helpful, he is always on the lookout for items that would please others. My mom had to ask that he stop buying her glass cake plates. She has no more room to store them. I, myself, requested that Hick cease contemplating the purchase of AUCTION MEAT. I can manage on our household budget. No need to buy a box of unidentified protein. The fact that the box was simply marked, "MEAT" was a deal-breaker for me. Now Hick has joined forces with Genius to corner the used camera market.

Genius knows his cameras. He cannibalizes lenses and flashes, and sells the main camera bodies online. However, he does not accompany Hick to the auctions. A few Goodwill sorties are as far as he goes. Last night, Hick saw what he fancied to be a fantastic camera find for Genius. As he started to bid, a lady told him, "I REALLY want this camera." Hick respected her wishes. He had a pocketful of money from his recent goat sale, but he held back. He knows what it's like to want a piece of memorabilia. Imagine his surprise when that lady nabbed her camera for five dollars, and declared, "I can sell this for $180 on eBay!"

Hick licked his wounds by purchasing the lesser babka of the night's cameras. Genius was still happy as a clam to get the lesser one, and stands to make in the high two figures from it. Hick feels a bit resentful about the five dollar ordeal. But he would do the same thing again. "You try to be nice and help out the people you see every week."

Maybe he can buy that lady a box of auction meat to show that there are no hard feelings.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Things That Go "Clang" in the Afternoon

Strange goings-on are once again plaguing my basement lair area.

Two weeks ago, while Hick and the boys were bowling in their Saturday afternoon league, I had an encounter. Okay, not so much an encounter as a freaky, unexplainable occurrence. There I sat, or, I might say, HERE I sat, pecking away at my keyboard, in only the glow of the monitor.

A soda can fell off the counter.

As you well know, I am not much of a canned soda drinker. Through the week, when my 44 oz. Diet Cokes are off limits, I occasionally indulge in a canned Diet Coke, or, if I'm feeling particularly festive, a real Coke. Those cans are promptly placed in a Walmart bag hanging from a drawer knob near the door, so that Genius can recycle them when he needs cash. Hick built my office for me. I have an L-shaped counter, with my desktop computer, New Delly, so named by Genius, in the corner of the L. A three-foot-high counter with drawers underneath runs behind me, to my left, to the door. The right-hand counter is shorter, and holds my printer. This noise was toward the door.

I jumped about three feet when that aluminum can clanged to the tile-over-concrete floor. You know the sound. Clang, clang, clang-clang. An empty can bounces. My first thought was that a can had fallen off the countertop. Or that the bag was full, and one had rolled out. Because in my basement lair, not only can no one hear me scream, but the laws of physics are suspended, and cans overcome inertia with no outside force acting upon them. Yeah. My mind was trying to create a scenario where this phenomenon was logical.

I glanced over my left shoulder. Nothing was moving. I typed a few more lines. Looked again. Got up and turned on the light. The bag of cans was only half full. There was no can on the floor. No can anywhere except in that Walmart bag hanging from the drawer. I will herafter refer to it as The Phantom Can Incident. No explanation was ever found.

All week, The Pony has been declaring that he hears things in my office. Not while I'm in it, of course. When I go out to sit in the recliner and watch TV, he hears things. Just last night, when we were watching a DVR of the rebroadcast of Wednesday night's Survivor that was pre-empted by the tornado, it happened again.

"Don't tell me you didn't just hear that." The Pony lay on the couch, typing on his laptop, glancing over the screen at the TV, and the doorway to my office. It's at the other end of the basement.


"That noise. in your office. It's the third one since you came out."

"No. That was your dad upstairs."

"Dad went to bed already."


"Uh huh. I keep hearing a clicking noise."

Genius was at a friend's house until after ten. So he could not be blamed. Hick was upstairs, in bed in the bedroom over my office. I might have heard a couple of noises. But I attributed them to (I thought) Hick upstairs in the living room. It's an open floor plan. The stairs go up through a big rectangle area. I can see the living room couch through the stair railings. We holler back and forth all the time. It's not like we're sealed in a basement dungeon.

When our show was over, The Pony jumped up to go take a shower. "Don't tell me you're going to leave me down here alone with that...that...ENTITY!"

"Yep. Gotta take my shower. Besides, I'm down here alone with it all the time."

I have no idea what's going on.

Friday, April 12, 2013

My Mom Would Never Tell a Lie in Church

Last night at 10:42 p.m., my mother and I had the following phone conversation:

"Oh, I meant to tell you...at church on Sunday? Mrs. REDACTED sat down by me. She just went on about my necklace. She's one of those people who think they're just a little bit better than everybody else. She's always all done up and wearing lots of jewelry. So...she said, 'I just LOVE your necklace! It's beautiful! Look at how that gold shines! If you don't mind me asking, where did you get it?' "

"Please tell me you told her, 'My grandson gave it to me for Christmas.' "

"NO! I said, 'My grandson is really good at playing that grabber game at Walmart. He won this for me. He has a whole bunch of them, and every birthday and Christmas he gives me one. Isn't it pretty? I just love it.' When she heard that, she screamed, 'WALMART! That necklace came from WALMART?' And I told her, 'Uh huh. From that grabber game.' I think she was shocked."

"Couldn't you have simply said that your grandson got it for you at Walmart?"

"Oh, no. I wanted her to know where it came from. I get compliments on those necklaces all the time. It makes me so proud that The Pony won them, and wanted to give them to me."

"Well, he's been playing that street racing game lately, because he says there's nothing good in the grabber. So if you're expecting a birthday present at the end of May, I need to tell him to get on the stick."

"He's already given me so many. He doesn't have to give me more. But they are really pretty. I think about him every time I wear one."

FYI...when questioned about a gift for Grandma's birthday, The Pony stated that he still has a stash of necklaces in his room, and possibly three more strewn around the third-seat floor area of the Tahoe. He's a good grandson.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Stephen King was Right. Sometimes They Come Back.

I don't know about your neck of the woods, but here in Backroads, darkness reigns at 6:20 a.m.

That's a time we are halfway through our morning routine. Hick leaves for work at 6:00. The Pony and I leave thirty minutes later. And Genius snoozes until the last minute from which he can careen into the school parking lot five minutes before the bell.

Imagine my surprise when I heard an entity lurching across the porch. The back door screeched open. Shinbones without feet attached stumped across the kitchen floor. Oh, wait. I'd know the sound of Hick's tread anywhere. My first thought was that Hick had taken ill. "What's wrong? Are you sick?"

"No." He stumped some more. Now that it was not a life and death matter, my mind turned to other scenarios. Because Hick is not one to volunteer information. Perhaps he forgot some keys for work. No. He would have hollered for The Pony to run to the bedroom and fetch them. Maybe he needed to answer the call of his diuretic. No. He can do that beside the car. I suppose the ENTIRE BAG OF MIXED VEGETABLES that he consumed on Monday could still be clawing their way down his duodenum. No. He stopped in the kitchen.

"Why did you come back?"

"I forgot Steve's eggs."

Seriously? He came back home to pick up a carton of eggs he's selling for $1.50 to a guy at work? He used $4.00 of gas to get $1.50 in eggs?

Something is wrong with Hick's business model.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Introducing...the KNOONK

I cried because I had no vegetables to eat with my Hidden Valley Ranch Dip...then I remembered that I'm married to a man who ATE THE WHOLE FREAKIN' BAG OF VEGETABLES! And I cried harder, then I got mad, and later on I might get even.

So much for composing a memorable quote tonight. I'm afraid the meaning will be lost in translation. No worldwide fame for me. My words won't show up on a poster suitable for hanging in a college dorm. Looks like I'll have to achieve fame by taking another route.

Here's my latest most scathingly brilliant idea. The world needs a new type of eating utensil. I say this because I am doggone sick and tired of washing eating utensils. Perhaps I've mentioned that I don't have a dishwasher. It is quite tiresome to haul tons of silverware down to the creek every evening. Oh, who are we kidding here? I don't wash the dishes every evening. Besides, sometimes the creek is in flood stage, and not suitable for soaking eating implements. For those of you who thought the "tons" part was the exaggeration, you need to seek a refund on you thinking cap.

My little family needs to have ONE utensil issued, checked out like a library book, to be eaten with all the live-long day, for two weeks. They think the silverware drawer is some kind of magical clown car for metal food-shovelers. I declare, ten thousand monkeys slurping ten thousand bowls of lobster bisque apiece in ten thousand competitive eating contests could not dirty any more silverware that the three men who live in my house. I almost gave myself a hernia lifting it from the counter into the sink. While I was recuperating on the toilet, because it's the best place to catch some peace and quiet around here while slacking off, the invention came to mind.

Each baby should be born with a silver Swiss Army Knife in his mouth. Okay, before you go saying, "Hold on there, Val, that's some CRAZY talk, giving babies Swiss Army Knives," let me assure you that I agree. That's not safe. And not economically feasible. It's wasteful. Everybody knows that babies don't need the corkscrew. They don't yet have the eye-hand coordination to open their own bottle of wine. That's adult work.

What babies should be born with in their mouths are KNOONKS. That's a combiation knife, spoon, and fork. In this ever-changing, fast-paced world, who has time for only sporks anymore? Not this gal. Besides, the KNOONK is a palindrome. Which makes it cooler that a spork. A spork sounds like that dweeby kid in seventh grade who asked you to the basketball game to watch him be the team manager.

Yes, KNOONK-equipped family members will provide me with less time standing at the sink, and more time sitting on my ample behind purloining select tidbits from The Pony's Easter basket. I plan to market them out of my proposed handbasket factory.

Reserve a set today, and you won't have to worry about tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Enough is Not Nearly as Good as a Feast

Yesterday I had to stay late at work for our First Monday meeting. The Pony was with me, Genius had scammed five dollars to feed himself between his robot practice and his girlfriend's soccer game, and Hick was on his own for the evening meal.

I know Hick is not a gourmet chef. He's not even a Rachel Ray cook. If it ain't hot dog, Hick ain't eatin'. To make supper more convenient for him, or, some might say, to enable him...I left food on the top shelf of the refrigerator where he couldn't miss it. I DID stop short of putting a note on it. Surely even Hick could warm up some leftover baked chicken in the microwave, and open a bag of vegetables and dip them in Hidden Valley Ranch. Seriously. How hard could that be for a grown man? I'm sure there are unattended toddlers and single-digit latchkey kids who can whip up a winning Chopped meal with these ingredients. In 20 minutes.

He could do it. Had I not restocked the wooden Everyday China paper plate holder on the counter by the microwave? Had I not explained to Hick Monday morning that I had mixed up the Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing powder in a tub of sour cream, and put it right beside that chicken? Had I not explained that I bought that bag of mini carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower florets for dipping? Let me answer for you: yes.

Image my surprise this morning when I arose before Hick and went to the fridge to get my poor Pony a ham sandwich for his lunch bag. The top shelf was bare! Okay, so there wasn't that much chicken left, and I had expected Hick to finish it off. He likes meat. And, to be fair, the sour cream tub was still sitting there in front of the milk. Which could prove to be problematic, because I could find neither hide nor hair of the bagged veggies. I looked behind the water bottles and the cheese I cut last week. No veggies. I looked on the shelf underneath, on top of the whole-grain wraps and bags of shredded cheddar and mozzarella. No veggies. I looked in the crisper, though I told myself that the last place Hick would ever put veggies is in the crisper. I was right. No veggies.

After my shower and fruitless attempt at a morning recliner nap, after getting Genius off to his W.Y.S.E. state competition, after calling my mom for our morning What Did Hick Do Yesterday chat...I spoke straight to the horse's as--MOUTH. "Hey, where did you put the rest of those veggies last night?"

"The REST of them? I ate them."


"Well, I looked at the side, and it said 'four servings.' But they were only 25 calories apiece. So I ate them."

"With dip?"

"No. I microwaved them."

"Without anything on them?"

"Oh, I put a little bit of cheese on them."

"A little bit? What KIND of cheese?"

"That yellow sprinkle cheese that's in that bag. And the last of the slices your mom sent from Easter."

"You ate a WHOLE BAG of microwaved carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower?"

"Uh huh. And that chicken. In fact, when Genius came in later, he asked what I did. I didn't even notice until I came back from the goat pen. The house smelled like that cauliflower."

Yeah. One way or another.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Backroads Val. Big Game Hunter.

I am on a quest to find the elusive meningococcal vaccine.

Shh...I am creeping behind the ferns, wearing my pith helmet and khaki cargo vest, an extra-large butterfly net in hand. I WILL bag a meningococcal vaccine this week. Genius needs to get one for dorm-living in college. He is ready to send in his health documentation, and wants that shot yesterday. Might even display it on the wall like a hunting trophy.

Funny. Genius is the kid who always made his little brother go first for a flu shot. Hates needles. Was told with an eye roll and exaggerated sigh by a candy-striper-looking young syringe-wielder at the doctor's office one year to "Just STAY STILL!" Now he thinks he's off to get this meningococcal vaccine on his own. I beg to differ. But first I have to ensnare that meningococcal vaccine, shoot it right between the eyes, taking care not to ruin the pelt.

The county health center will not give Genius a meningococcal vaccination because he has insurance. "Go to his regular doctor," the nurse advised. Even though when he was a kid, the doctor said, "Go to the county health center." Times, they have a-changed. So much, in fact, that the county health nurse suggested Walgreens for all of our vaccination needs.

The doctor's office acted like I was CRAZY, wanting a meningitis shot. Like I had asked for my boy to be injected with meningitis. The phone-answerer put me on hold to investigate such a foolish wish. The nurse who eventually picked up my call put me on hold again. Twice. Another gal cut in to see why I was cooling my ear in her virtual waiting room. Put me on hold. Said the nurse's name, and that she was ready to give me the information now. Transferred the call. Which the nurse let ring until it went to voice mail. Voice mail is apparently not dishing out meningococcal vaccines, either. I called back and got that nurse's extension number. She sounded surprised to hear from me. Val is not your usual patient's mother, easily intimidated. She holds onto her prey like a snapping turtle during a long, dry spell. Nurse said that the doctor does not give meningococcal shots. Oh. Silly me. I thought such a service might be provided by physician.

I DID manage to inform Nurse that Walgreens gives those shots. Oh, yes. Indeed. Walgreens gives them. You just need a prescription from the doctor first. Which she could fax to the pharmacy. Yeah. I said somebody would drop in to pick it up. That's what retired grandmas are for.

Next, I called our local Walgreens. Huh! A meningococcal vaccine, you say? What a most scathingly brilliant idea! Let's see if we have one of those. The female pharmacy rep put me on hold to check. A male picked up the phone. "Yes! We give that! Let me see if I have a dose in the refrigerator." Put me on hold. A different female picked up. "Uh...meningococcal vaccination? We don't give that. Who said? Huh! We don't give it. Maybe in the future. But not now. Why did that guy who said he was the pharmacist say we did? And that he was checking the fridge? Well, he must have been confused. We don't give it."

I called the Walgreens two towns over. The one recommended by the county health nurse. Was put on automated hold for ten minutes. One caller ahead of me. My call will be next. Woman picked up the phone. Impatient. "Yes. We give that. Yes. You need a doctor's prescription. Twenty-four hours a day we will give that shot."

Alrighty then. The big game hunter returns from safari. Successful. All that's missing is the picture of me standing with my foot on top of the meningococcal vaccine, its tongue lolling listlessly from its lifeless mouth.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Doctor Doolittle Does it Again

Hick went to an auction last night to get rid of some goats. We were up to 13 of those rectangular-pupiled eating machines. The thing about goats is...they reproduce. Oh, those kids are so very cute when they're little, but they grow up to be voracious locusts who eat everything in sight. Kind of like teenage boys. Hick kept Nellie and Goatrude, our first two females, and their current babies. Plus another one that was too smart to get caught. So we still have at least a half dozen of the critters.

I was not sorry to see them go. We were not really attached to the new crop. The most horrible thing about the whole auction scene is that Hick came home telling tales of what he could have had. "Do you know I could have got a jackass for five dollars?" No comment there. It would have gone over his head. "And I could have got two of the cutest little ponies for only twenty dollars! A pretty little Holstein calf was a hundred dollars! And they had a pot-bellied pig from the St. Louis Zoo children's petting zoo! Chickens were seven to nine dollars each! And the guineas were going for TWENTY-TWO DOLLARS APIECE!"

You can imagine how his excitement sent a shiver of fear through me. We don't need any more animals. I mentioned that people can't afford to feed their pets. That's why things were so cheap. As far as those guineas go, I'm sure people think they are pretty and would look nice roaming around the yard. But they are hateful, hateful birds. The bullies of the fowl world. We had two, and another appeared out of nowhere, and they bite the chickens on the butt just for spite, and have the most annoying scream ever. We hate the guineas. I wish Hick would take them to the auction and get rid of them.

This morning while I was puttering around the kitchen I heard Hick step out onto the front porch in his underwear. He started gobbling. You know turkey season opens Monday, right? I'm sure that's a fact of which you're all aware, even though you may live in the city, or another state entirely. Hick has never been a turkey hunter. I went to look out the living room window. In the trailer attached to his truck was a big white turkey. Here we go again.

Our neighbor is a turkey hunter. We have given him permission to hunt on our land. I told Hick he needs to get over there tonight and let him know that we have a turkey. Otherwise he might go crazy calling it and waiting for it to walk down to the creek where he can shoot it. At least he knows that a white turkey is not what he's hunting for. Still. To get his hopes up hearing it respond to his call would just be cruel.

After all, that's the neighbor who saved me when I locked myself out of the house a couple weeks ago.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Her Mouth Hangs Open in a Silent Scream

Along the county road, nobody can hear you scream.

Yes, that's EmBee, our loyal, trusty mailbox. She, too, has been having flashbacks since The Incident. Post-traumatic stress episodes. She wishes for a driving rain to wash herself clean. No amount of water can take away her feeling of being soiled, though. Her honor besmirched. Her integrity breached. Her thick metal skin is crawling with disgust.

You see, even though the jabbing fingers did not penetrate her body proper, they violated her security. Now the crunch of tires on gravel, the hum of rubber on blacktop, send her into paroxysms of fear. Will she be subjected to another groping at the hands of those infernal...hands?

EmBee is no stranger to violence. Just look at the walls of her home. A whacking here, a smashing there. Her humble abode may crumble, but EmBee herself refuses to bend. She has a will of iron. She's stronger than her thin-skinned neighbors.

Come on, you thieving low-lifes. Come and take my medicine. Preferably in mid-June. When the wasps build papery condos overhanging EmBee.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Feeder Becomes the Eater

Since my recent victimization by the rural mail thief, I have flashbacks every time I see something just a little bit off around my mailbox. This evening, for instance.

The Pony and I pulled over to the side of the road by the mailbox row. It was just after 5:00, near the time when normal people with normal jobs would be getting home and picking up their mail. We, on the other hand, had spent the day at a science fair, picked up papers for me to grade, and completed the weekly Walmart marketing. I put my Tahoe into park and turned it off. No need to let him guzzle gas while we waited on The Pony to take his own sweet time to climb out and gather the mail from our green metal pipe. The one not big enough to hold two tubes of Clearasil Vanishing Creme. While waiting, I spied a dark blue SUV on our gravel road to the left. Parked there, creekside, for no reason. It's not like they had a kid out peeing in nature, or throwing our homeowners-association-paid-for gravel into the babbling brook. They must have seen us stop. Because the SUV started up. Pulled forward about three feet. Slammed on the brakes. Pulled forward another three feet. And sat there. Idling.

I swear. It was like a horror movie. Like the original Halloween, when Michael Myers drives that creepy stolen mental hospital station wagon down the street and slams on the brakes when Jamie Lee Curtis's whorey friend Annie hollers, "Hey, jerk! Speed kills!" before she is strangled in the garage in a car with fogged-up windows. Or like those dudes in the commercial messin' with Sasquatch, letting him get near the door handle, then gassing the car, then letting him catch up, and doing it again.

When The Pony got out, the blue SUV started up the gravel road. Slowly. In fact, after letting The Pony back in, I caught up to it before it hit the second curve. The driver must not have liked that. He put the pedal to the metal. I told The Pony this dude was either a cut-through or a dweller. Of course, now that I think of it, those are really the only two things a person could be doing up in here. Cutting through, or living on these roads. Unless, of course, they're casing the place for a robbery. But this one was moving at a good clip. Knew when to drive on the wrong side of the road to avoid the Great Chasm worn by days of heavy rainfall runoff. The cloud of dust from his tires billowed around me.

WAIT A MINUTE! That's backwards! I am the one who lets a tailgater eat my dust. But now I was being fed! I was the eater, not the feeder! I might as well have been Elaine walking down the street in the Bizarro World with Kevin, Gene, and Feldman. The forces of the universe were off. But I didn't let that deter me. A little bit of dust never hurt ol' Val. Soon we were in a high-speed chase fueled by gravel-road rage and paranoia. I WOULD find out who this interloper was! I daresay speeds approaching 30 mph were achieved. Nobody runs from vigilante justice like that unless they have something to hide.

Alas. The dark blue SUV went up the road past our homestead. The dead end road. No outlet. A dweller. I stopped short of pursuit with intent to check complexions and medicine cabinets.

SOMEBODY has our Clearasil!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

On Tuesday, Crime Paid

I have a bone to pick with a certain dead-mouse-smelling employee.

We have been expecting a package to arrive any day now. The order was placed last week, the website said it would be delivered in 2-3 business days, and it's time. Past time. So I went to the email that announced my package had shipped, and clicked on the confirmation number. On Monday morning, it was in the city, sorted, ready to go out. But here it is Thursday already, and we don't have our package. Val, herself, could have walked that package to Backroads in that amount of time. WITH breaks along the way for 44 oz. Diet Cokes.

I checked the confirmation number again. THAT PACKAGE WAS DELIVERED ON TUESDAY AT 11:23 A.M.! We don't have the package. I checked with Genius, who picked up the mail that day. Nope. No package. Just magazines and junk mail, which he piled on the kitchen counter. This morning I had The Pony get out and look all around the mailbox. Ours is in a long wooden box of mailboxes on the county road. Hick built us a breathtaking mailbox out of metal pipe, and painted it John Deere Green on the outside, and yellow on the inside. It has a round metal door on the end that closes with a magnet. Other people in our wooden box have regular mailbox-shaped mailboxes. Each in its own wooden cubby. A small wooden addition has been built onto the east end, to accommodate people who have move in since the mailbox condo was built and sunk three feet into concreted holes on metal legs. The Pony's search, like a lady in the era of A League of Their Own, revealed nothing.

During my plan time, I called the dead-mouse-smelling post office. A somewhat disgruntled man took my name and address and confirmation number, then told me that no rural carriers work out of that office any more. He suggested I contact a town-over local post office. At that number, a somewhat disgruntled woman jumped right to the confirmation number. Then announced, "Let me turn on my computer." HELLO! It was 9:30 in the morning. What goes on in these dens of disgruntleddom? The first thing I do when entering my classroom is fire up the old computer. I smell a package-smashing contest or mousetrap-emptying-and-setting party. She put me on the dead silence of hold for over five minutes. You can't get rid of Val that easily. I graded some make-up work and gathered items for an absent student. Multitasking is my middle name.

When Federal Frownie came back to check the line for breathing, I was right there. "HELLO!" I really said it that time. I was not just scream-typing it for effect. "Did you find my package?"

"What's your address?"

"1313 Steal My Mail Lane, Backroads, Missouri. I'm wondering if it was put in the wrong mailbox, or if the carrier brought it back to the office. We didn't get an orange card. We're on a row of mailboxes."

"Hold on."

Deceased rodent in a dead-mouse-smelling post office! Can the United States Postal Service not afford Muzak? I printed updated rosters and seating charts for my substitute tomorrow. I am a new-student magnet. Fifteen updates to that sub folder since first quarter. That's gotta be some kind of record. With my luck the Most New Students in Three Quarters Trophy will be mailed to me. Federal Frownie knew that she was not losing this inquiring mind. She got back on the line.

"Your carrier says it would not fit in your mailbox. So he laid it on top of the mailbox, inside the wooden box."

"Well, it's not there. We never got it."

"Try looking on top."

"We already checked all around the wooden box, and in the others in the row."

"Did you ask your neighbors? Would one of them have picked it up on accident?"

"One of them might have picked it up on purpose. From plain sight on top of the mailbox. It was from The Medicine Shoppe. Not something that should have been laid out."

"I don't know what to suggest other than to check with the neighbors."

"Well, now we don't have our package. So in the future, if the package doesn't fit in the box, I think the carrier should probably leave an orange card that says it doesn't fit in the box. That seems to have been the policy in the past."

"I'm sorry."

Yeah. Sorry. So I'm out a package of medicine, and the carrier can pick and choose what policy to follow, and perhaps help himself to a package of medicine when his own dead-mouse odor gets too strong, and the United States Post Office is off the hook. Because they're SORRY. You bet they're SORRY! A SORRY excuse for a mail delivery system. The Pony Express would have never treated me this way.

I wish I could have seen the face of the THIEF when he opened that package and found two tubes of Clearasil Vanishing Cream.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Anything I Ever Needed to Know I Learned on Television

I just had the most scathingly brilliant idea!

You might have noticed the recent popularity of cable network shows such as Doomsday Preppers, Doomsday Bunkers, and the newest, Apocalypse 101. So I figured that since people are genuinely interested in this subject, I will avail my proposed handbasket factory to educate the prepping masses. Yep. When I'm not hefting a hammer, hacking away at those highly-crafted handbaskets, I will offer classes in how to select your doomsday companions.

I saw one of the prepper shows where some aging hippie folks lived in an old missile silo. It was underground, of course. But they had it tricked out so you wouldn't notice too much. And they had a little group of people that they were planning to share their abode with when doomsday comes a-callin'. Apparently they put a lot of thought into it. However...they looked like the meekiest band of meeks that ever meeked, just sitting ducks waiting for their recently-inherited earth to be ripped from their grasp as the non-meeks pounded them into a pulp. Hippies are not the best at designing a security plan, it seems. I, myself, could have wrested power, property, and probably pot away from these withered flower children. How hard is it to take down a harpist? And I swear, when they wanted to address the group, they passed around a flute of some sort like it was the conch in Lord of the Flies.

But getting back to my plan...every post-apocalyptic society needs a hoarder. That's right. A hoarder. Forget the mechanic and the doctor and the chef and the farmer. Surely you've see those shows, too. Hoarders. Hoarding: Buried Alive. So you must see what I'm getting at. How hard could it be to overpower a hoarder? To kidnap one, even. They're not exactly working out in there like a prison inmate who does billions of pushups and situps in his cell each day. Hoarders are soft. Cushy. Plump. Or a bag o' bones. And forget fighting back. They may have many a weapon, some new in the box piled up near the ceiling, but they can't get their hands on it quick. Taking supplies from a hoarder would be like taking candy from a baby. Except you probably wouldn't want to put it in your mouth.

Of course, you would not want to injure your hoarder. Nope. Just trick him. Puff in some smoke to calm him like a bee. Blindfold him with some old clothes laying around, and lead him out of his house like a horse from a flaming barn. Explain how sad you are that all of his hoard perished. BUT...you can set him up with new stuff. See? You can go out into the post-apocalyptic landscape and scavenge and plunder, while your own supplies are safe, under the care of a hoarder. The hoarder will be ever-vigilant. Fool him once, shame on him. Fool him twice...I don't think so.

An added bonus of having your own hoarder is that you never know what you might salvage from his stuff that you didn't really destroy. You might have to trade it, or make it into something he won't recognize. But you will have one of everything at your disposal.

Also, the hoarder is unlikely to complain. He's used to having no running water. No refrigeration. No working toilet. He will pee and poop in a baggie if you ask him to. And don't worry about feeding him. If any of your foodstuffs look iffy, smell like they've gone over, just don't seem quite edible...give them to the hoarder. It will be a delicacy as far as he's concerned. No need to worry about where the hoarder will sleep. Give him an old bathrobe for a blanket, and a tiny hollowed-out space in which to curl up, and he'll arise bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, if a bit rumpled.

All in all, the hoarder's benefits outweigh any doubts of his mental stability. He will be an asset to any burgeoning colony.

No charge for your first lesson.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Val is Unprogressive and Unresponsive

Electronic gewgaws and I are not simpatico.

I would gladly welcome the return of quill pen, parchment, and courier for communication purposes. This texting business is for the birds! And I don't mean those dear sweet carrier pigeons. My fingers are not nimble, and that auto correct feature is not on my wavelength. Let's return to our paper trail roots. I have enough to feel guilty about without letting my email cool its heels unattended for unreasonable periods of time.

That's what always happens to me, you know. I can't have my cell phone at work. Can't check personal email. It has to wait. And of course at the end of the day, I find out that I received a semi-important email just two scant minutes after first bell. That means that a person has been finger-tapping and jaw-clenching in the vast teeming waiting room of cyberspace for nigh on eight hours! Sitting there, reading three-year-old magazines, fending off the overflowing fat of new seat partners, resisting the urge to tell people how to control their children, shrinking from the sticky fingers of aggressive toddlers, breath-holding to avoid inhaling the droplet spray of coughers and sneezers. It's a wonder my electronic communicants don't chuck the whole Val thing and court a more receptive recipient.

Perhaps I exaggerate a bit. Inflate my importance. For all I know, that email was sent and forgotten, like tossing last night's corn cobs off the back porch for the chickens to enjoy. Or maybe the sender dropped it in my inbox on the way to the mall to wreak havoc with shopkeepers, jamming Orange Julius straws up both nostrils and acting like a walrus, or posing inappropriately with mannequins at Old Navy. Time may not be of the essence at all.

Still, I like to be prompt. To treat an email like an RSVP. You know what THAT means, don't you? Respond so very promptly. That's what Shirley Feeney told Laverne DeFazio. I think it was the episode where they were guinea pig lab rats in a sleep/hunger study to get money to go to a fancy party. Wherein Laverne fell asleep and did a forward roll in her cocktail dress, and Shirley pounced on a morsel of food that had dropped to the floor. Ahh. Good times.

Back in the days when mail was mail.

Monday, April 1, 2013

This is Why We Can't Have Fresh Deviled Eggs

We used to get 14 eggs a day from out little flock of chickens. Lately, it has been two or three a day. I know that during the winter, laying drops off. But I think I have discovered another reason for our chicken-fruit decline.

Mid-morning, I saw Ann the black lab/shepherd mix sitting under the leafless lilac bush. Something seemed odd. Suspicious. She turned to chew on her tail for a minute. I couldn't really catch her at anything. As we got ready to run to town for a 44 oz. Diet Coke, The Pony announced that Ann had an egg. During the drive, I expounded upon my theory that Ann was eating the eggs as fast as the chickens could lay them. Since those darn chickens roam around the yard and porch, rarely entering their custom-made chicken house, Ann thinks the egg situation is finders keepers. That's why she has grown so portly of late, on the same dry food ration as always.

The Pony argued that if Ann is eating all those eggs, one would at least expect her coat to be glossy and shiny. I know what he was doing. Taking Hick's side in the great Juno is the devil on four legs debate. Seriously. Just because she has a beautiful silky coat does not mean that Juno is an egg-eater. German shepherds have course undercoats. Ann looks mostly like a german shepherd. Even though her lab side makes her stack food scraps such as bread slices and chicken strips like casino chips before wandering off to enjoy them.

The Pony and I returned home from town around noon. "Hey, look. Ann is on the porch with her egg." Indeed, she was. She picked it up and backed away when she saw me staring at her. Then she tended it all afternoon. Quite a tender retrieving mouth she has, not to damage a fresh homegrown egg. Those things are fragile. Like...like...eggshells.

Here she is contemplating her next move.

Don't let her unkempt fur and laid-back ears fool you. She's an egg-eater. See it there in her mouth? That tasty brown fresh egg from a free-range chicken?

My dear sweet much-maligned Juno wanted some of the action. No dice from the casino-chip-stacking queen. I'm sure there was some posturing going on here. Too bad my blog does not have growl-a-vision. No way would my dear sweet Juno stand at attention like that, so still, unless contemplating a coup. Please disregard her glossy coat. I'm sure it's due to her presumed border collie genes.

Contrary to the retina-incinerating brightness of that photo, they are in the front yard again under the lilac twigs, not on the surface of the sun. The Pony's phone camera must have issues. But it still captured the brown egg in Ann's mouth.

No rest for the wicked weary. Ann needed a midday siesta. Yet she could not leave her purloined egg unattended. What's an egg-thief to do? Well...use the egg for a pillow, of course.

The provocateur Ann has chosen the part of the yard in which my dear sweet Juno is wont to roll and cavort with her assorted toys and random animal bones.

With Ann so preoccupied today with that one egg, Hick reported a harvest of five from about the grounds this evening. I don't need a private investigator to tell me what's going on here.