Monday, September 30, 2013

I Might Be Changing the Name of My Garage Band From "Mommy's Got a Headache" to "Other Dogs' Anuses."

Well. I seem to be slipping in popularity with my students. It took until 5th hour for them to comment on my haircut. That is unheard of! Usually the adoration kicks off right after first bell. Perhaps they are still basking in my celebritydom, and not wanting to draw attention to themselves with an untimely inquiry.

This new coif makes me feel all special. Excuse me while I spin around and burst into song. Somebody get a helicopter, quick, to record some aerial shots.

"How do you solve a problem like my Juno?
How do you catch a borador and tie her down?
How do you change behavior in my Juno?
A Walmart-bag-sniffer, a yard-turkey chaser, a hound?

Many a thing you know I'd like to tell her.
Many a thing she ought to understand.
But how do I make her stay, and listen to all I say?
How do I keep her nose out of my mouth..."

Yes. You read that right. Nose. Mouth. Juno's nose. My mouth. Juno's nose was in my mouth!!! That can't be sanitary. No way. No how. Ugh! I've been kissed by a dog! I have dog germs! Get the hot water! Get some disinfectant! Get some iodine! Hey, it worked for Peanuts Lucy.

Juno got a little carried away during our lovefest upon my return from grocery shopping. Normally, she lays her head on my chest so that her nose is against my neck. Or under my chin. No, I'm not a contortionist, and Juno is not five feet tall. She stands on the side porch while I stand on the sidewalk to the garage.

I don't know what got into my sweet, sweet Juno. Instead of the loving, chuffing, hot dog breath on my throat, I was treated to a wet, rubbery, dog nose in my mouth. It was like an extra-large Jujube in texture, though not at all like a Jujube in taste.

I recoiled in horror! Had I just bitten into a dog's nose? It wasn't my fault, actually. I was talking at the time Juno made her move. And VOILA! Instant dog nose!

Do you have any idea where a dog's nose has been? If we were to take Google Street View and turn it into Dog Nose View, I'm sure we would be privy to shots of other dogs' anuses, dripping dogs' urethras, the waxy insides of other dogs' ears, the crusty corners of other dogs' eyes, logs of other dogs' poop, cow pies of the pasture kind, steaming innards of once-fluffy bunnies, liquified possum carcasses, and grass, lots of grass, to clear the canine nasal palate.

I hope that Juno's schnoz was not damaged. That I did not nick her with an incisor and drip my saliva into the cut. I wouldn't want my sweet, sweet Juno to succumb to a nose-eating infection.

A human mouth is full of bacteria, you know.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

With a Name Like This, It Has to be Exquisite

Perhaps you think I exaggerate the exquisiteness of my Chex Mix. I assure you, I do not. People clamor for it far and wide. Okay, wide people clamor that it doesn't go very far. But it's exquisite, doggone it! And people like it!

"How good IS your Chex Mix, Val?" you all say, playing along like card-carrying members of Hee Haw's Kornfield Kounty. Well. My Chex Mix is SO good that...

...a daddy longlegs can't resist a piece dropped on a dog-hair-encrusted step between the porch and garage. A daddy longlegs that is having issues with a couple of his legs. Still, Daddy L has dragged himself up two or down one step to partake of this previously seasonal treat, made special in September this year for the birthday of my favorite gambling aunt.

How a morsel got to the step I'll never know. There were three plastic Christmas tubs of this delicious garlicky treat left over. The Pony has some every day. It's his grain requirement, I suppose. Or like morning cereal, at night. I don't think he grabs a handful on his way out the kitchen door. I assume Hick was tossing back a fistful on his way to work, or out to visit his livestock.

What shocks me is the fact that the dogs have not snuffed it up. They're like three high-powered outdoor vacuum cleaners. True, they prefer to jump right over the side of the porch rather than take the steps. But one would think Juno would have encountered it on her many alleged trips to the garage to eat cat food all day. I suppose she was too excited by the thought of all-day cat food to notice it on the way down, and too full from a day of cat-food eating to notice it on the way up.

Maybe I can market this tasty treat at my proposed handbasket factory. I can see it now. A big bag emblazoned with the slogan: "Val's Chex Mix. So Good That a Daddy Longlegs Can't Resist a Piece Dropped on a Dog-Hair-Encrusted Step Between a Porch and a Garage."

Don't scoff. That "Smuckers" slogan was already taken.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Brownilocks Checks In

I went to get a haircut this morning. Perhaps I've told you about my own personal beauty shop: Terrible Cuts. I used their check-in app. Because there's nothing I like better than cutting in line ahead of people who think they're up next. I don't agree with it, but if Terrible Cuts wants to give me the option to be a poor sport, I'll make use of it. Better me than them. Sure as I'd walk in and wait my turn, ten hairy people would arrive and all go ahead of me.

When I did my smart-phone check-in from my Save A Lot parking space, the wait time was 0 minutes. Of course when I got there, five people were inside, two being cut, two milling around, and one ensconced on a plastic black chair like she was never leaving.

A tweenage boy in football pants joined the millers at the pay counter. He had a new buzz cut, and looked kind of like Buzz in the Home Alone movie. My boys' hair never cooperated with a buzz cut. Theirs laid down, all sleek, like a seal. None of that cute spiky porcupiny toilet brush stiffness for their follicles. The buzz cutter swept up and called me next. Take THAT, already-waiting-woman-reading-a-women's-magazine! You can sit there with that dude who just came in, smelling all manly, like old leather shoes worn without socks, garden-plowing sweat, and pipe tobacco.

My Terrible Cutter the buzz cutter was perfectly adequate. She could have pleased Goldilocks herself. She took just enough time, cut just enough off, made just enough conversation, and ripped just enough roots from my scalp in her zealous up-clipping to shear the under layers. One area where she excelled was in whacking me with something that felt like a caveman's club or a medieval mace, once above the left ear, and once under the left eye. Let the record show that she did say, "Oops! Sorry!" both times. She did not have a hacking cough, or lean on me more than a Terrible Cutter should. In fact, she was quite adept at the hair salon ballet. Especially given the fact that neither I nor she were of acceptable BMI. She revolved around me like Saturn around Jupiter. Like those pudgy planets on the Jimmy Dean breakfast solar system commercials.

I welcomed her lack of small talk. I alternated between keeping my eyes closed, and watching the other Terrible Cutter work her magic in the mirror. She was on the same woman as when I entered the establishment. She was probably on her when I checked in from another town. She had been cutting in the beginning. Then she combed, like trying out various looks on her Barbie Styling Head. Then she spritzed that woman's locks with water. Combed some more. Got out the blow dryer. Poofed it up a bit. Spritzed it. Combed it. Snipped a little. It was as if that woman had been there so long that her just-cut hair had grown long enough for more cutting. I was paid for and out of there before she ever left the chair.

Hick and The Pony have yet to comment on my new 'do. That's okay. I'm sure my students will notice on Monday.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Jeans Are the New Sweatpants With a Hole in the Knee

The best-laid schemes of Val and Mom always go awry.

The Pony and I were to call Mom as we left school so she could head for our predetermined rendezvous location. We are like bad spies, always meeting at the same place. Unfortunately, I travel through a dead zone before I can use my cell phone. I can't call on the school phone, because an individual uses the only outside line every single day from final bell until 4:00. After regaining service, like Apollo astronauts passing through the Van Allen Radiation Belt, my phone went crazy. A voice mail. That never works, so I had The Pony call Mom.

"I was afraid you had gone without me. It's been a half hour since school was out."

"We just got underway. I have a job, you know. That requires me to work. We didn't forget you. We were just getting ready to call."

"Okay. Bye. I have to get going."

Mom did not wear her gray sweatpants with the hole in them! After I specifically instructed her last night to lay them out. I guess she's saving them for the landfill guy next month. But she was still her helpful self. When I stopped by the bank to withdraw $80 in cash and then deposit it in Genius's account, so he can use it immediately, while depositing a payroll check for $80.51 from Hick's reimbursing employer in our account, any other mother might have questioned the efficiency of my transaction. Not MY mom! It made perfect sense to her. Though she DID question my route from the ATM to the drive-thru.

"Um...I thought you were going to deposit that cash."

"I am. That's where I'm going now."

"Oh. I guess a lot of people use this alley."


"Did you think about cutting through here by the church?"

"That's where I'm going. I do this all the time, Mom. Thanks for your input, but I've got it covered."

"Well, I was just thinking that you could have backed up from the ATM, and pulled into the drive-thru that way."

The Pony roused himself from his pit of indifference. "That didn't work out so well the last time she tried it."

"Yeah. That's when I backed over the compact car driven by the crazy meth-beard man who had a pitbull on a chain, and yelled, 'GET BACK IN THE CAR!' when I went back to exchange insurance information. Then I found out he was talking to the dog. And he didn't want to call the police, because I only bent his license plate with my trailer hitch, and he didn't even stay to do his bank transaction. I had asked The Pony if there was anything behind me, because that guy was so close he was in my blind spot. The Pony told me it was okay, then I found out he hadn't even turned around to look."

"Oh. Are we still going to Arby's?"

"Yes, if you want to. But Hick called and said he wants Chinese, and The Pony wants Chinese more, but they're going to be gone all day tomorrow, so I can get Arby's to save for my lunch. didn't wear your Arby's pants."

"Well, it's too hot for them today."

"Mom. It was hotter than this last time you wore them. I guess now that you sewed up the knee hole, they're stifling."

"These jeans are cooler."

"Yeah. Jeans are so comfortable in 85 degrees. Not like those threadbare gray sweatpants."

We went on to pay the house bill at a different drive-thru in a different town. Mom asked again. "So we're going  to Arby's?"

"Yes. Right after this."

"I think I saw on their commercial that they have a little chicken sandwich. I think I'll get a little chicken sandwich. I still have roast beef in my freezer from last week."

"I don't remember that. But you can ask when we go in. I'm going to pay with a $20, so I'll get whatever you want. And we'll get The Pony a soda and a molten lava cake to tide him over until he gets home to his Chinese."

We left The Pony tapping at his laptop, and went into Arby's. It was kind of a ghost town. Can you believe that, on a Friday evening at the end of the month? As if people would rather spend their money on a real restaurant. Or Chinese. We were the only customers, except for a disgruntled one waiting for the manager. Which probably would not bode well for your average Arby'sgoers, but did nothing to deter us. Mom asked about the little chicken. Nope. Arby's doesn't have little chicken. So uncharacteristic of a roast beef establishment. Mom decided she did not want anything! What a bait and switch! Harp about going to Arby's, dress up for the occasion, even, and then decide on nothing.

Oh, well. The Pony, who had declared that he did not want anything, strapped on the old feedbag and ate up his Sierra Mist and molten lava. Mom thoroughly enjoyed my tales out of school during the drive time, though I forgot one particularly juicy tidbit that I will call her with tonight, when the Cardinals game is over.

AND...even though Mom didn't get anything in Arby's, she gave me two dollars when we got back to the car. For anyone keeping track, that puts Val out of the negative column. She's up to a Two-Dollar Daughter at the end of September.

If only I'd remembered the best story, Mom might have made it $3.00.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

This Just Might Be Our Lackluster Finale

I called my mom a couple of nights ago. She's been having adventures without her negative-ten-dollar daughter!

"Oh, I took seven bags of trash to the landfill. That guy there thinks he knows me. He's always so friendly. I just play along. I've never seen him before in my life, except when I go to the landfill. I can't keep from talking to him. I said, 'Well, I sure didn't dress up to come over here. I guess you saw this hole in the knee of my pants.'"

"No you didn't!"

"I did! I didn't know what else to say to him."

"He probably thinks you're a crazy homeless lady. What was he wearing?"

"Oh, he was dressed up!"

"What do you mean? Like a three-piece suit? To throw trash bags?"

"No, but he really looked nice. He was wearing some kind of uniform thing. Like a vest. Bright yellow."

"I guess that qualifies as dressed up, compared to you. Get those pants ready! We're going to pay the bills Friday afternoon, and we're stopping by Arby's again!"

"Well, I hate to tell you this, but yesterday I sewed up that hole. I was just sitting here in the recliner, and I thought, 'I need to fix these pants.' So I did it while I was wearing them."

"What did you use, a fish bone and an unraveled hank of rope?"

"No! I used a needle and black thread, so it matched."

"Those pants are gray."

"Well, I think it looks pretty good."

"I guess we're lucky you didn't use the sewing machine. It might have been hard to balance on one leg while you put your knee up there."

"That's right! Oh, and I meant to tell you, you know how I went for that test to look at my kidneys?"


"Well, (mom burst into giggles, hardly able to squeeze out her news), that technician said my kidneys looked fine, but (HA HA HA HA HA HA) THEY FOUND GALLSTONES!"

"What? Why are you laughing?"

"I just think that's so funny. They (HA HA HA HA HA HA) found (HA HA HA HA HA HA) gallstones! HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!"

"You know, Mom, the things I find funny, and the things YOU find funny are a little different. A man carrying a snake by the tail for 100 yards to throw it down a sinkhole, yes. Gallstones? Not really."

"Oh, (HA HA HA HA HA HA HA), I know. I just (HA HA HA HA HA HA) can't help it! Whew. I think I'm done. So...we're going to Arby's again?"

"Yeah. Don't you want to?"

"Yes. But last week when I went in and ordered all those sandwiches, I could see a boy and a girl in the back, the ones folding all those sandwiches, looking through that opening at me."

"I'm sure they were just thinking, 'There's that crazy lady with the hole in her pants. She looks like she's full of gallstones.'"

"Oh, stop it!"

"Well, lay out your pants with the stitched-up hole. We're going to have a good time."

"I know. We always have a good time. Is The Pony asking to spend the night again?"

"He can't this weekend, because he has to work at the car show for the band. And anyway, you need to understand that if you have a gallbladder attack while he's at your house, you shouldn't expect him to help you. He will be entirely indifferent."

We are all three looking forward to our little expedition. The negative-ten-dollar daughter. The darned-pants-wearing septuagenarian chock full of gallstones. And the boy who does not care enough to help rescue people in danger.

We might end up in a jail cell for a year after violating the Good Samaritan Law.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

After 25 Years, Pretty Much Anything Goes

Just in case you've ever wondered how teachers hold onto their sanity, how they keep stoking that fire in their belly to help people year after year...I'll fill you in with a vignette. Okay, I wanted to say a short vignette. But I controlled myself. I wouldn't want to decimate my credibility. I think somebody will really appreciate that.

I stood by my door this morning after first bell, during that passing period students have to dash to class and relinquish their social ties for 50 minutes. On an ordinary day, the speckled industrial tile of the hallway virtually sparkles from being polished within an inch of its life. But this morning, there was a blemish. A brown mark upon the beauty that is a public school in that golden hour before students invade and pillage like Vikings in a Capitol One commercial.

A colleague, schooled in the mysteries of science, as is Val herself, strode down that besmirched path. She stepped over the offending mud clump. Stopped. Released a bellow of outrage. I joined in. "I know! It's only first hour, and they've already trashed the place!"

CollyG bend down and picked it up. I never knew cleanliness was next to chemistry-teacherness. No way would I have picked up a chunk of hall-mud. No way would I have bent over. CollyG held her treasure aloft. Like a hard-luck Sad Sack brandishing a four-leaf clover.


Indeed. It was a tiny frog. Quite dead. Dessicated. A regular amphibian mummy. It could not even have passed for jerky, so dry was the tissue. I recognized it forthwith. Had I not walked past it just outside the back door to the parking lot for two days in a row? CollyG grasped that well-preserved specimen like I was going to leg-wrestle her for the rights. Just because it was discovered along my classroom frontage did not mean that I wanted to lay claim.

Silly me. I thought CollyG would throw the expired overgrown tadpole in the trash. But no. She set off merrily down the hall, to a cluster of our cronies. They gathered 'round, thinking, perhaps, that CollyG had brought them a tasty morsel from the breakfast line. Can you believe they screamed when they realized there was not enough to go was not food...CollyG was waving a dead flat frog in their faces?

I am certainly glad she was not around when Hick found that mummified cat in the attic over my grandma's garage.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

He's The Pony, Not Rin Tin Tin

This afternoon I reined in The Pony to assist in the registration for his upcoming ACT test. He's in 10th grade now, and ready to dip his dainty hoof into the pool of higher education yardsticks. As a first-time test-taker, The Pony had to fill out an interest inventory comprised of 72 questions. Most of them I could have guessed. But since it IS all about The Pony, I handed him the mouse. "Fill this in. You have to tell if these are activities you would enjoy doing. The options are "Like," or "Indifferent," or "Dislike."

I watched as he galloped through them at a fast clip. Every now and then he would snort, "No!" Or bob his head and give a chuckle. Imagine my shock when he breezed right past a question silently, checking "Indifferent" without a second thought.

"That is so disturbing!"


"I saw that. Where you clicked "Indifferent." The Pony scrolled back up the list.

"Oh. THIS one? 'Help rescue someone in danger?' I was just being truthful."

The same thing happened on 'Help people during emergencies.' "Indifferent." Without pause. And on 'Repair damage to a tree after a storm,' he clicked "Dislike."

"I see how it is. You don't care about helping people in danger or during emergencies, but you REALLY don't want to help the environment."

"What? How am I going to fix a tree? I can't put it back in the ground."

I'm thinking that The Pony is just not a people person. Or a dendrophile.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Tonight, On Hick of Backroads' Wild Kingdom...

That Hick! He's such a spotlight seeker!

For several days now, he's been dropping hints that I'm not writing about him enough. Not that he even knows what a blog is, or ever expended the effort to read the one story I've since published about him before signing away his rights. Such a narcissist is Hick.

Every time I sit down at my living room laptop, or walk through the upstairs square footage over my dark basement lair, Hick heckles me. "Hey! You're always writing stories about me. You haven't even asked me about my snake story."

No. I have not. Is that something you would think to ask YOUR spouse? Oh, honey...what about your snake story? Yeah. I didn't think that was quite the mainstream marriage conversation topic that Hick imagines it to be.

Tonight, just after we both pulled into the garage at the same time, and right before Hick left for his bowling league, I hit on that bait. "Hey, what about your snake story?"

"What snake story?"

"For days you've been hinting that you want to tell me a snake story. So I can write about it. Did you have an encounter with a snake?"

"Well YEAH! I opened up the BARn door, and there was a snake laying in the middle of the floor!"


"What do you mean?"

"What kind was it? How big? Did you kill it? Did you catch it? Did it bite you? Is it still there?"

"It got under the workbench. I was afraid I'd lost him. But I reached under there and drug him out. He was this big." Hick held his arm straight out from his waist, with his fingers and thumb in a pinchy grip.

"You held him by the tail to measure him?"

"Yeah. And he tried to BITE me! So I pinned his head down with an 'L' clamp."

"Then what?"

"I threw him out the door, past the burn pit. AND HE STARTED TO COME BACK IN THE BARn!"

"Imagine that."

"So I grabbed him and carried him up the field and threw him down the sinkhole."

"Wait! You carried him across the field?" That's a distance of about 100 yards. Hick is no Usain Bolt.

"Well, I couldn't let him come back in the BARn!"

"You dangled him by the tail and carried him across the field?"

"No. He balled up around my arm. And he kept trying to bite me. So I held his head away with that 'L' clamp. Then I threw him down the sinkhole with all the other stuff." He means things like kitchen cabinets from our old house, and various dead critters, and junk that even he doesn't want. Hick regards sinkholes as nature's wastebaskets.

"Threw him down the sinkhole, as in SPLASH? Or threw him down the sinkhole as in the depression covered with dead leaves that slopes down to the hole in the rock?"

"Just down in the big hole, in the leaves."

"He's a SNAKE! He lives in the leaves. He'll come right back out."

"Yeah. But it'll take him longer to get back to the BARn."

"You know that he was in your BARn because he's eating something, right? Mice. Now you'll have blind pink hairless baby mice in your coverall pockets again. Instead of a snake to pick up by the tail."

"Aw. There'll be another snake."

Our Hick is no Marlin Perkins. He doesn't have Jim to do his bitey dangerous work. Hick is his own Jim.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Curious Incident of the Mom in the Morning

If you drop in here regularly for the daily unbagging of the cats, you know that my mother holds me in high esteem. Depending on the day, I might be worth up to eight dollars. Then there are the days my value plummets into negative figures. Not often. But it happens. I blame the conspiratorial universe, always out to thwart Val's best intentions.

Today blog buddy Tammy posed a question: "How did your mother manage to humiliate you?"

Contrary to well-informed readership's popular opinion, my mother did not humiliate me by prancing around Arby's like a defector from the Bolshoi Ballet, flaunting the hole in her pants like a rare jewel romanced from the Nile by Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner, with the help of bumbling Danny DeVito. No. Mom is Mom, and she's going to let her unfiltered flag fly as she sees fit. Her humiliation of a tender young Val occurred more privately. Subtly.

During my college years, Mom called me every Sunday morning. Unfailingly, every single week, no matter whether I lived on the 8th floor of a high-rise dorm, in a classy 2nd-floor apartment with a balcony across from a large cemetery, in a five-bedroom rental house a block from campus, in an apartment across town with a lesbian couple and a front-door peephole that was only a short metal tube that we blocked with masking tape, or in a four-bedroom bungalow with a mushroom growing through the bathroom carpet...Mom always asked near the beginning of that phone call, "Is somebody there?" She was not talking about my roommates.

Let the record show that Val was never promiscuous. No Winona Ryder in Girl, Interrupted was she. Not a slut. Not a loose young lady. Not an employee, nor proprietor, of a house of ill repute. So there was no need for that question, spoken in a conspiratorial manner, as if she was willing to keep my secret should I only divulge it.

Where Mom got the idea that I was involved in overnight entertaining, I do not know. I was not one to have a steady boyfriend. In high school, I hung out with my group. Two girls and three guys. We were like Tom Cruise's nerd gang in Risky Business. Well. With the exception of that couple who got it on in the upstairs bedroom. And that whole brothel business to get money to buy back the household furnishings from Guido the Killer Pimp.

Sure, I dated that older guy who wrote for the Post-Dispatch. I only did it while home for the summer as a favor to my hometown college buddy who was dating my roommate. Could I help it that Mom peeped through the living room sheers at that inopportune moment on the carport?

Oh, I had opportunities to date at sleep-away college. But I turned them all down. There was that lanky red-headed guy on my intramural basketball team, and the curly-topped dark-haired short dude on my intramural volleyball team, and the body-builder with the lazy eye who was part of my entourage that attended a national convention in Boston, and the Kansas pig-farmer with the hairiest legs I'd ever seen. Okay...that last one was a gal, not that there's anything wrong with that. But the point is that I was at college to LEARN, by cracky, not to get my MRS degree. I don't know what Mom was thinking, asking me if anyone was there every Sunday morning of my college career. Because other than the dozen-or-so rent-paying folks legally contracted to occupy the same abodes, none of whom were romantically attached to Val, NOBODY WAS EVER THERE! I found that line of questioning to be humiliating. Falsely accusatory.

Like Curtis Armstrong (better known as Booger in Revenge of the Nerds) told Tom Cruise just before setting him up for his whole Risky Business...

"Sometimes, you have to say WTF?"

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Thevictorians Don Their Smarty Pants for Charity

Last night three Thevictorians hit the town to compete in a trivia event for charity. Val alone had planned to attend, but was joined by Hick, who invited himself at 5:57 a.m. while Val was still groggy from her recliner nap. Genius made a surprise trip home from the halls of higher learning, and was spirited away before he knew what hit him.

The return of Genius was known to Val since Monday night. She was under strict orders to be a lady, and reveal nothing. You can imagine how difficult that was for Val. The departure time for trivia was 6:00, and Genius's arrival was projected to be 5:30. Hick had just settled himself into his La-Z-Boy with a snack of a 3-day-old Arby's Jr. Val sat at her laptop in the front living room window, trying to will recalcitrant internet fumes through the glass and into her Shiba like enticing a genie back into his bottle. Hick sat up suddenly, slamming the footrest back into that La-Z-Boy. "Here comes Genius up the driveway!"

You could hear it in his voice, in only those six words. Why, WHY did I invite myself to trivia! My son is home! MY SON IS HOME! I want to spend time with my son. Who is home. Right now!

"You don't have to go to trivia. I'd planned on going by myself. It's all right if you want to stay home."

We waited. Genius had a mini-lovefest with the hounds on the front sidewalk. He made a grand entrance. Or he would have. But Hick had locked the front door when he came in from the goat yard. "You've locked him out, you know." Genius has a key. But it did seem rather rude for him to be locked out of his home while we sat on the other side of the door. Hick ran to let him in.

"You're home!"

"Uh huh."

"I guess everyone knew but me?"

"Uh huh."

Genius had no plans for the evening except sleep or film developing. I invited him to trivia. "It's at school. Maybe you can help with the scoring. Or you can visit. Or somebody might need you on a team. Ours is full already." The more he heard who was going to be there, the more Genius leaned toward spending time with his uncool mom and pop, at a trivia competition. We threw him into the back seat of T-Hoe, the one usually occupied by The Pony, who was spending the night at Grandma's.

It's a good thing The Pony did not tag along, I suppose. We dropped about sixty dollars into the coffers, what with entry fees, mulligans, foot-long hot dogs, and raffle chances on a sports car. The foot-longs were probably unnecessary, what with our table full of popcorn and pretzels provided by the trivia-runners, and mini candy bars, store-bought Chex Mix, M&Ms, and sweet potato chips brought by participants. Still, who's gonna turn down a foot-long hot dog for a dollar?

I paid for Genius, just in case he ended up on a team. He made the rounds, and was snapped up by one with a college buddy/high school friend due to graduate in December, along with several elementary teachers and a couple of kids. Of course they beat us. But we DID take second, after a tie-breaker. It was not a competition that favored our team of three science teachers, a computer geek, a music teacher, a business teacher, two church ladies, and Hick. Who throws a trivia competition without a science category? Not to mention includes categories in U.S. history, Missouri history, U.S. travel destinations, and sports? I'll tell you who! NOT science teachers. Those elementary teachers really know their history. But I'm willing to bet they couldn't diffuse their way out of a phospholipid bilayer bag.

The high point, or probably the low point if you took a survey of competitors last evening, was when our team debated the multiple choice question concerning origin of the Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run. We had narrowed our choices down to Wichita and Chicago, with the majority going for Chicago, since they seem to have a history of supporting police and firemen. Just after turning in our answer sheet, the computer dude married to the science gal sitting across the table from me said to us, "Oh, sure, Chicago. I suppose they were also commemorating the great fire at the same time." His dry wit tickled my funny bone. We started to giggle.

"Maybe that first time, they were riding cows through the streets, holding their torches, in a true shout-out to that historical fire." We couldn't stop laughing. More than a few contestants stared at us like we were poking prancing unicorns with pointy sticks. Shame on us.

I suppose it was Karma holding hands with Even Steven, skipping down the path to comeuppance, who caused that science gal to protest after the grading of the last round, that what we had marked as an Xbox logo was deemed to be the Xerox logo. Thus causing the committee to re-evaluate our answer sheet, and discredit that answer they had skimmed over and counted right. Which dropped us into a tie for second.

Thank goodness we had estimated our score at only two points more than our final total. To the tie-breakers go the second-place spoils.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Val Builds a Not-As-Good Mousetrap

Sometimes Val's life is like a Seinfeld episode. Sometimes Val's life is like a game of Mousetrap. Yesterday, the universe was in a Hasbro mood.

As you might have guessed, or heard from some ne'er-do-well tattletales, Val does not like her things touched. She can tell if they are repositioned even a smidgen. As Even Steven would have it, a young man approached Val's desk with a question about a double-line graph. Because some students sitting along the back row had made themselves comfortable by shoving their chairs back and stretching their legs under their desks, the main walkway had narrowed. Mr. Graph-It accidentally bumped his hip into one of the tables that hold my rack of recently-used files.

The file table bumped my control-center table, which holds a three-tiered stack of amplifier, DVD player, and VCR. Resting upon the VCR is an InterWrite gadget that is missing a cable or part, which is not used. Upon that InterWrite is a stack of current grading keys, and time-sensitive forms and announcements. Upon that paper stack rests my glasses while I am not actively doing close-up work in need of bifocals.

Such an unfortunate chain of events. The tower-topping InterWrite is wedge-shaped. Apparently, the zealous custodian had been moving that upper echelon of educational accoutrements slightly each evening while dusting. The vibrations from the hip-checked table caused the InterWrite to topple off its penthouse digs, form a ramp, and act as a 45-degree slide for my prescription eyewear. The glasses slid to the bottom of Mount InterWrite, skipped across the only inches of white plastic tabletop not covered by electronics or a web of wires, and into the three-inch gap between table and wall that is left for electrical wire access.

I heard my glasses hit the tile. Against the concrete block wall. Under my four-foot table. I fetched my wooden meter stick from the top edge of the whiteboard frame, and fished out the windows to the windows to my soul.

Not quite as exciting as a bowling ball falling through a bathtub to knock a plastic diver guy into an old-fashioned washtub, but still an impressive display of cause, effect, and gravity.

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Frig spontaneously healed himself!

Perhaps you have heard that Frig became constipated or contrary a couple of weeks ago, and stopped dropping his ice pellets into the bin. We have been living in the dark ages, buying bags of ice at the gas station chicken store (not recommended) and Save A Lot, and dumping them into the bin for future dispensation. Like a Twilight Zone episode, appliance store employees have lost all memory of Frig's sale and hardware. Subcontractors decree that the going price is four times the cold hard cash outlaid for the last replacement ice-maker.

Monday morning, I peeped inside Frig's innnards to see if I needed to stop for ice on the way home. AND I SAW FRIG-MADE HALF-MOONS OF ICE IN THERE!

I told The Pony when he got up. "I know. I heard it dumping when I was in bed." Isn't that a fine how-do-you-do! Surprise ice to start the work week. Then I got to wondering if Hick had finally followed through on his plan to track down the elusive Frigidaire ice-maker. On the way to school, I had The Pony text him to check. The Pony takes good dictation while I'm piloting T-Hoe through the mean streets of Backroads.

"Did you fix the icemaker? It seems to be working again."


"We'll keep an eye on it then."

"The valve could have been stuck and freed up. We can watch it."

Yes. Hick's advice is so much more sensible. Who wants to keep an eye on something when you can watch it instead?

Behold! The bounty of Frig! Yeah. He was a little plugged up, so I kind of Roto-Rootered him with a butter knife. What's a little chopping when you were expecting to find his innards Mother-Hubbard-dog-bare?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Val is Now Paying People to Buy Her Stock

My mom went to Arby's this afternoon, and picked up a bag of cheap sandwiches for us Thevictorians. She dropped them off at school, and told me of her adventure.

"I went to the counter, and it was that same man who messed up your order that one time and had to get somebody to clear the register. I asked if he still had those cheap sandwiches, and he said yes, every day. Somebody in the back hollered to ask him how much longer he had to work, and he said two weeks. I guess he's leaving."

"Did he ask you how that hole in your pants was doing?"

"No! But he asked if I had a name he could use for my order. So I told him. And then I said, 'Or you could just call me Dot.' And he said, 'Dot! I've never heard of that name!' So I let him call me Dot."

"You should just give him a fake name. He'll never know. You could even play around, like on The Simpsons. Tell him your name is Amanda Hugandkiss. Then he'll be yelling like Moe down at the tavern, 'Amanda Hugandkiss? I need Amanda Hugandkiss! Can anybody get me Amanda Hugandkiss?' Wouldn't that be funny?"

"Oh! I couldn't do that!"

"I bet Sis could do it. She might even say, 'Amanda. Amanda Hugandkiss. Be sure to use my last name. Because see that lady over there? I know her. Her name is Amanda, too. So make sure you call Amanda Hugandkiss.' Yeah. She would do that."

"You're going to get me in trouble one of these days."

I tried to pay Mom. "Here's ten dollars. For the sandwiches."

"You paid me last week, remember? When I said I'd pick them up today? Oh! Maybe I should learn to keep my mouth shut. I could have ten more dollars!"

Yep. Val is now the Negative-Ten-Dollar Daughter.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Story of Vally Crappleseed

It has come to my attention, upon my recent travels through the blogosphere, that an earth-shattering change has taken place. Where once the landscape lay bare of Val-isms, there is now a lush carpet of Val's stylings. A virtual weblog rain forest dripping with bad grammar, made-up words, poor syntax, inopportune tense shifts, and sentences ending with prepositions.

Perhaps it is simply wishful thinking. The thought that folks want to emulate Val. Or at the very least, send her an emu late at night, to interrupt her REM sleep, and render her unable to spread her special brand of prose-without-rules from coast to coast. Border to border. Into space, the final frontier.

Like a New York cook named Mary dishing out hot typhoid, like a yawning Student Zero spreading lethargy throughout a seventh-hour late-August classroom, like Charles D. Campion releasing Captain Trips on the world via East Texas...Val has spread the seed of unconventional communication of the write kind. Which, while feeding her vast narcissism and hefty ego, is not necessarily a factual occurrence, or a good thing. Some might look upon her inflated claims as something else. Most eloquently stated as fifty pounds of crap in a ten-pound bag. The end of written entertainment as we know it.

A Valpocalypse, if you will, of literary proportions.

Monday, September 16, 2013

It's a Form of Illiteracy

Woe is Val. So put-upon by the ones she serves...never asking for anything more than compliance with her strict household regulations that change daily at her whim, and are not posted on the premises.

Dear sweet Hick, maligner of Juno, midnight pillow-thief, inept icemaker repairman...just does not know how to survive a crisis. If attacked by a polar bear, Hick would not drop into the fetal position and cover his head with his arms, as any small child in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada knows to do. He would scream like a woman with her fingers sinking into the back of a warm tomato plucked from the vine, facing a leering green tomato hornworm over the top. Or like a middle-aged man reaching his hands into the pockets of the BARn coveralls he slipped into, and feeling pink hairless baby mice scampering across his calloused palms.

In fact, Hick creates crises where none are imminent. Tonight, for instance. His bowling night. The night his loving wife not only brought him a thin-crust pizza so he could save some of his bowling allowance for auction-going, but also cooked some onions to go on that single-topper. Onions on a foiled Pam-ed pizza pan, baked suitable for pizza garnishing, not sweated, not fried, not microwaved.

What did he do, our clue-catching-challenged Hick? He took the foiled pizza pan, scraped the onions onto his pizza, then looked Val directly in the eye, and REMOVED THE FOIL AND CRUNCHED IT INTO A SHINY BALL THE SIZE OF A HERSHEY'S KISS AND THREW IT IN THE TALL KITCHEN WASTEBASKET! In spite of Val standing at the stove, ready to take the pan back, with the oven still on, and a box of breadsticks open on top. In spite of Val giving him a momentary benefit of doubt, thinking he might be using that pizza pan to carry his meal to his La-Z-Boy before bowling departure time, thinking he would simply lay that sheet of foil on the stove top so she could use a different pan for her breadstick-warming needs. But no. Hick put the pizza pan back on the stove and carried his lovingly-onioned pizza on a mere paper plate.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH HIM? Obviously, Hick's path is broken. The path that Val tries to tele him her wishes through. If Val held out her hands and said, "Pick a hand, any hand, and maybe you'll win ten dollars for buying MEAT and cake plates at the auction," Hick would always pick the wrong hand. His gut instincts are always queasy.

I can't even work up enough rage to castigate him anymore. "Why did you do that?"


"The foil. I was going to use that on the pan for the breadsticks."

"Oh. I saw you looking at me, so I figured I'd better throw away that foil or you'd be mad."

"It was perfectly good foil. That stuff's not cheap. I don't see you bringing it home from the auction."

"Sorry. I was just cleaning up." And with that, he walked from the kitchen to the living room, stepping over the grass clippings that fell off his boots after mowing the yard.

I pulled the foil ball out of the trash. Too bad it wasn't laying on top of a once-bitten eclair laying on top of a doily. I pried it apart. Tried to flatten it again. After much exertion, I had a near-square that almost covered two-thirds of the pizza pan. It looked like a project I did in grade school, wrapping wrinkled foil over a rearing plastic horse, then painting him to look like he was made of distressed antique metal. The breadsticks were not judgmental.

Hick needs to enroll in a remedial class to brush up on his mind-reading skills.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Behold, the Power of Homophones

I was happily pecking away at my laptop this morning, looking out my front picture window at the assorted chickens pecking around the remnants of my goat-nibbled lilac bush, when Hick plopped down on the long couch.

Let the record show that Hick did not sit in his recliner, nor on the short couch behind me to enjoy the view. The view of the front yard, of course. Not the view of my backside in my pajamas. No. He chose the long couch, the one nearest the coffee table serving as my seat, so he could speak loudly near my right ear. This might explain why no work gets done upstairs in the light of day, but only in my dark basement lair. There is no couch in my basement office.

"I went to the auction last night. I got your mom a cedar."


"She said she wanted one. To roll around in the yard."

Funny how Mom seems to keep these little kernels to herself, only sharing her deepest wishes with Hick. Who knew she wanted a cedar? Is she in training? Like that wrestler, Shute, in Vision Quest, the one who carried that giant tree trunk on his shoulders while ascending from bleacher to bleacher in the football stadium, training to repeat his state championship, unaware of the plans of Louden Swain, aka Matthew Modine, to drop two weight classes to wrestle 168 and challenge him? I could picture Mom, bent over, rolling that cedar all willy-nilly through the trees in her front yard, training, perhaps, to be more assertive the next time somebody dumped a puppy on her property.

"It was a bargain. It only cost a dollar. That's good for a cedar. We'll take it to her this afternoon."

"WHY WOULD MY MOM WANT A CEDAR? Is this like that cake plate business? How you buy her cake plates, even though she's said over and over that she appreciates the thought, but she doesn't have any more room for cake plates?"

"She wants to plant some grass. She's been waiting for a cedar."

"OH! She wants a SEEDER!"

"That's what I said."

Never mind.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Val Stands Corrected, and Unrepentant

Sometimes, Val is a not-so-smartypants. Like yesterday.

The Pony is quite adept at completing his schoolwork. He is rarely challenged. He has a grade of over 100% in more than half of his classes now that it's time for mid-term progress reports. He's not one to toot his own horn. The opposite of Genius, who was a regular Satchmo in that area. The Pony's goal is to get his assignments done forthwith, so that the time left is his own. He takes his Kindle, and a stack of books, and his flash drive in case he gets time in the computer lab.

As he was exiting T-Hoe Friday morning, he said, "I'm taking in my LOLcats books. People will like looking at them."

"Huh. And I suppose by "people" you mean girls?"


"You know you do. Girls will love looking at crazy cat pictures. What are you, a Lothario?"

"No. What's that?"

"A guy who attracts a lot of women. I think it's from Shakespeare."

"Ha! Shakespeare! Ha ha ha." I wasn't sure why The Pony scoffed at me. Why he found that so ridiculous. It's not like he had ever heard of Lothario. I made a mental note to tell The Pony that he needed to download some classics on his Kindle. To approach it from the angle of preparing himself for academic team competitions.

Today I looked it up. Lothario is from Don Quixote, not Shakespeare. Huh. Perhaps my 10th Grade language teacher should have spent more time teaching us the classics instead of turning on I Love Lucy reruns and letting us go to morning break for Hostess fruit pies.

I'm not sorry I neglected to tell her when my fellow independent-study Advanced Chemistry cronies snuck that gerbil out of the biology lab and into her desk.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Hick Needs To Cease and Desist With the Spoilage of My Broth

This old dog wants to be left alone to perform her well-mastered tricks. The routine does not need updating. Val is not interested in building a better mousetrap, or reinventing the wheel. In fact, if Val had her druthers, ten million monkeys would be enticed to roll ten million lumpy old stone-age wheels across ten million mouse paths, because the sun even shines on a flat mouse some days.

I was without my trusty supermarket sweeper, The Pony, this evening. Because we will be busy partying it up with my septuagenarian aunt on Sunday, I was forced to do my shopping alone. THE HORROR!

When I returned home, Hick graced me with his presence. Genius, who made a big show of carrying in groceries one time in front of his houseguest, puts Hick to shame. Hick usually disappears when the restocking wagon rolls into the garage. Today, he came to help. It was obvious that Hick was a novice.

He carried bags from the back of T-Hoe through the garage, up the steps, into the kitchen. Silly Hick. Bags go from T-Hoe to side porch. Once they are all on the side porch, they are carried in. This requires only one trip up the steps, not a plethora. When The Pony assists, he keeps bags going into the house as I am fetching them from the garage.

Imagine my surprise to find what Hick had done with the bananas. They were in a bag all alone. The Pony would have put them on the counter by the sink, just inside the kitchen door. That's where Hick keeps them. His breakfast staging area, easy to grab on his way out the door for work. But no. Hick carried them all the way around the counter, past the cutting block, to set them on the stove top.

But that's not his biggest transgression. Hick was in the kitchen with his bags. I put more on the side porch, and went back for the rest. That's when I heard it: "JUNO! STAY OUT OF THAT!"

Oh no he didn't! Hick berated my sweet, sweet dog Juno! My sweet silky soulmate who has never, EVER, gotten into the groceries. She might have stepped on the edge of a bag once, trying to get closer to me for petting. But she has NEVER nosed into our foodstuffs. Just the sound of crinkling plastic when her foot hit it made her shy away. And with Juno and Hick on the other side of T-Hoe and the garage wall, Hick had to assert his King of the House power and act like he was saving the groceries from a pillager.

What he forgets is that I have done this for more than 20 years without his assistance. Old dogs do not suffer new tricks lightly. It's easier alone.

I appreciate the thought. Not the effort. Around here, there's only one correct way to carry in groceries. But you probably knew that already.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Secret Squints and Burns Out Its Retinas on the Light of Day

Well, it's official. I've been outed. Too late to crawl back into the dark basement lair. My secret is kaput. A fellow faculty member casually mentioned in line for the two copiers this morning, "I heard something about you!"

Of course that's a cause for concern. Like when a kid gets called to the principal's office. I immediately cataloged all of my recent transgressions, and wrapped them, like so many fresh fish in newsprint, in excuses. Val is nothing if not a whiz at debate. In fact, she must have been a lawyer in a previous life, what with being long-winded, despised by many, and forever being overruled.

"I hear that you're an author!" Yeah. I know who let that cat out of the bag. My bestest friend and ex-teaching buddy, Mabel. I have not had time to communicate with her since yesterday. So she has showered her affections on another. When we last convened by text message, I believe Mabel inquired as to where she fit in in my books. I felt that it would be cruel and unusual to offer her a place of honor between the pages, to be pressed and dessicated for keepsake purposes. So I did what my mother always advised me: "If you can't text anything nice about your bestest friend and ex-teaching buddy, then don't text anything at all." I always follow my mother's advice. That's why I'm the $2 Daughter, you know.

Oh, horror of horrors, Ms. Heard-Something asked where she could get ahold of one of these books! Of course I told her I could sell her one. Or she can delay her gratification and try Amazon. I think I need to send Mabel out on a publicity tour to promote me. It's not like she's doing anything these days. Heh, heh.

If Mabel doesn't like the publicity tour idea, she can hot-trot her heels into the teacher workroom, and start kicking butt and taking names. TWO new Kyoceras from the end of last year, and not a page to print. Both machines were tied up by tremendous stacks of double-sided stapled packets. I left. Not wasting my valuable time standing around a copy machine selling books. When I heard that the Kyoceras had stopped, I went back. Can you believe the one closest to the door was jammed? Yeah. Shocking. And it stayed jammed, even when a student came in and grabbed the done copies.

Oh, and Mabel? I outed you as the Copy-Stopper. I could tell by the look on my future customer's face that she had no idea you were the one. All that time, she had been secretly blaming Val. VAL! Who doesn't even know HOW to stop copies.

We're even. Even like Steven. But if you have a's safe with me.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

So Encouraging, to Find a Tag Not of the Skin Variety

Val is not a large fan of playground games. Large is about as far as she goes. However...that rapscalliony Sioux has whacked me smack dab in the middle of my back, nearly dislodging a lung. Since I'm not in Ferris Bueller need of hacking one up for my tenth sick day, I shall lay around the shanty, Mama, and get a good buzz on. WAIT! No I won't. That's just a song lyric. Really.

I would like to lay around and do nothing. That's a fact, Jack. But I will put that off until tomorrow. Unlike a lady, who reveals nothing, I shall let my unladylike flag fly, and reveal all. But not in a circus side-show kind of way.

What are you working on right now?
I've been kicking around an idea that might fly one Friday at The Muffin. And by "working on right now" I mean that I think about it every day or two, make plans to sit down and write it, get busy with family things, watch some reality TV, take a nap in my recliner, jot some notes in my little flip-top spiral, and tell the whole blogosphere that I might possibly be thinking about writing it. Right now.

Yes, I'm kicking around that idea like Beaver Theodore Cleaver kicking a tin can down the sidewalks of Mayfield, past Metzger's Field, on his way to the firehouse to visit Gus, before being sidetracked by a giant bowl of soup on a billboard.

As far as something longer, more substantial, to stick to your ribs and tide you over until snack time, I'm thinking about kicking around a little venture in the vein of "Sh*t My Dad Says." Only mine would be...YOU DIDN'T THINK I'D ACTUALLY GIVE YOU MY WONDERFUL WORKING TITLE, DID YOU? The world conspires against Val too much to reveal such a gem. But it goes a little something like this: "Barnyard Excrement My Significant Other Spouts."

How does it differ from other works in this genre?
Val is no wheel re-inventer. It doesn't differ by much. Why mess with success? I am flattering by imitating. My tales are not from somebody's cool old man, but rather from my uncool country spouse. If only viewers of Duck Dynasty and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo were aficionados of fine literature, I might have something here.

Why do you write what you do?
To please myself. I find ME absolutely hilarious, and delight in tickling the keyboard every evening to lighten my mood. Don't like it? Don't read it. Don't cost nothin' to look away.

What is the hardest part about writing?
Trying to make myself socially acceptable on pieces I choose to submit for publication. I don't want to appear a complete idiot. But I don't want to lose my voice.

Now it's time for me to tag three people. Uh...not gonna happen. I'd rather sit down and put my feet up. I'm a taker, not a giver, by cracky! Anybody who wants to play, run up and jam your back against my hand. There. You're it!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

If You Wanna Get Published, You Gotta Raise a Little Hair

Val is one scary gal. Or so sayeth the poets who don't know it, those self-unaware rhymers who tremble at their own shadow.

Yep. Val is the dark at the top of the stairs. The blank-masked, coverall-wearing Michael Myers. Carrie White a bit perturbed that prom didn't go her way. Hannibal Lecter looking for a main course to accompany his fava beans and nice Chianti. Jason Voorhees surging to the surface beside your canoe in the middle of the lake. REDRUM written on a bathroom mirror. A little boy named Damien with a birthmark that resembles a trio of sixes. A low, dull, quick sound beneath the floorboards. Some visitor tapping at your chamber door...only this and nothing more.


Last night, I received word that my story, "Things That Go Bump in the Gym," was selected for Rocking Horse Publishing's upcoming anthology, Spirits of St. Louis: Missouri Ghost Stories, due out October 15th.

A big thanks to blog buddy Donna for the link to this call-out.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Cars Don't Kill People. People Kill Themselves. By Taunting Cars.

I decree that all roadwalkers should have a background check and be licensed before they are allowed to walk on the roads of Backroads.

Yesterday morning I headed to town for the weekly shopping. As I rounded a right-angle turn to the left, I had to slam on my brakes to keep from flattening three fisherboys. They were around 7th grade age, still lanky and not stocky, with fishing poles slung over their shoulders like so many hobo sticks bereft of red bandanas. I could not go around them, because in the oncoming lane was a dude on a 4-wheeler, stopped to talk to them.

4WDude motioned with his head for them to get over on his side. Out of my lane. They glanced past their bare-hooked hobo sticks at me. And laughed. While not moving out of the road. Yes, it is the end of civilization as we know it. Here was 4WDude, breaking the law by riding his off-road vehicle on the road, blocking said road, in fact, trying to school these fisherboys in proper pedestrian/vehicle etiquette. And they were having none of it.

Wake up, fisherboys! You are not Gordie, Vern, Chris, and Teddy, on a coming-of-age journey to Back Harlow Road to find the corpse of Ray Brower. There will be no miraculous camera tricks to save you like child stars on a train trestle with a smoking steam engine bearing down on you high above the Royal River. Do not scoff at Val and her trusty T-Hoe, but rejoice at the fact that anti-lock brakes come standard on such a vehicle.

4WDude gunned his four wheels and eased on down the road. The fisherboys moved into his lane, where at least they were facing traffic. Once they were done giving me scathing looks, of course. How dare I drive my vehicle on the road! While licensed!

I plan to operate the Official Roadwalkers Licensing Office out of my proposed handbasket factory. Take a number. I'll bet you can't wait to see your official license picture.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Drawing a Line in the Dust at Val's Bad Taste Emporium

Yes, there are some things that even Val won't post on her blog. Uh huh. The gal who does not hesitate to keep you up-to-date on the latest feces transplant technology, show you Snowman Peeps with embarrassing appendages, and elaborate on her recent bout of workplace indisposedness...found this subject too controversial. Inappropriate. Unsuitable for internet consumption.

No, I'm not trying to sensationalize my topic. I'm no carnival barker, raking in your hard-earned cash for entry into a dim tent to view a hoax. It's FREE, by cracky! And no hoax.

Saturday, The Pony had the first meeting of this season's bowling league. He wanted to go to his grandma's house first, to download some game updates using her high-speed internet. Yes, like youth is wasted on the young, high-speed internet is wasted on my mom. Not my fault she can get cable in her neighborhood, and we can't. Mom agreed to meet Hick at the bowling alley at noon to transfer The Pony.

On our way to Grandma's, The Pony and I passed a bunch of oncoming traffic on our county road. Most unusual, now that we're no long a major detour. When we got out to the lettered county highway, I saw the reason. An auction. A sign pointed an arrow down our road. Public Auction Today. Of course I called Hick. He loves nothing better than a public auction. Unless it's pushing my buttons.

"Hey. There's a public auction somewhere on our road. We passed a bunch of cars, but the auction must be farther down. The other way from the mailboxes."

"Huh. I hadn't heard anything about it. Most public auctions start at ten. It's quarter till. I might go take a look." I knew he was beside himself, not knowing ahead of time, to get there at the crack of dawn to scope out treasures. I continued about my business. Dropped off The Pony. Talked to Mom. Shopped at Save A Lot. Picked up a 44 oz. Diet Coke. On the way back, I passed Hick about two miles from home. Not being your regular everyday hillbillies, we did not slam on the brakes and block the road both ways to chat. I called him.

"Why are you going so early? Bowling isn't for 45 minutes."

"I'm going to town to see if my chainsaw is fixed. I went by the auction, and they're not selling anything I'm interested in until 2:00. The Pony should be done by then."

The guys arrived home after 2:30. The Pony came directly to my office. "How was bowling?"

"Oh, we didn't bowl today. Just registered and got on teams. Dad and I both ate lunch there. Then he made me go to the auction with him."

"I guess he didn't get what he wanted? You're home pretty early."

"He got a box of stuff. He's taking it now to wherever he keeps that stuff."

"What did he get?"

"Some trays. And a drink dispenser."

I know that Hick collects Falstaff, and various other brands of beer memorabilia, to display in his BARn. When The Pony mentioned drink dispenser, I knew he wasn't talking about a SodaStream. I imagined a cut-glass decanter with an ornate stopper. Something not quite Hick's style. But since he DOES buy fancy cake plates because he swears my mom loves them, I could imagine him dropping a few dollars on a decanter.

"Drink dispenser? Like a fancy glass bottle with a stopper?"

"Um. No. I can't describe it."

"How hard is it to tell me what a drink dispenser looks like? I might want you to get a picture of it for me."

"No. You don't want that. It the shape of...uh...a BOY. And I'm not going to tell you where the drink comes out. You can use your imagination."

This morning, Hick showed me a picture of it on his phone.

Sorry. No photo. Some lines must not be crossed. Even at Val's Bad Taste Emporium.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

So Many Weirdos. So Much Time.

Hey! Did you know that Val is a weirdo magnet? It's true. Like every rose has its thorn, every night has its dawn, and every cowboy sings a sad, sad song...Val attracts weirdos with the force of an electromagnet hoisting a compacted clunker onto the scrap heap. No trip to town goes unweirdoed.

Today, for instance. All I wanted was a 44 oz. Diet Coke from the gas station chicken store. A simple wish, really. Nothing extravagant. Nothing extraordinary. My chosen parking spot beckoned to me. The lot was only one-third as full of cars as last evening. And a family of ten or so sat outside at the round picnic tables where that one weirdo laid her lit cigarette on the seat, then found it on the ground and still put it in her mouth. So I figured the inner sanctum of my close-quartered convenience store would be relatively uncrowded.

Just then two men and a woman, all sporting tattoos on their various and assorted exposed appendages, strode past me to the door. Okay. Three people. That they looked like soda-buyers did not deter me from my mission. They appeared harmless enough. Like Fleetwood Mac concertgoers from the late 70s. Before TUSK. I don't believe in foreshadowing, but rather in misdirection. They were not the weirdos.

As I stepped through the door, I quickly realized that I will never be kicked out of a casino for counting cards. While I had imagined that the number of people outside the store divided by the number of cars on the parking lot would yield a favorable ratio of in-store competition for the clerks' attention, I was sadly mistaken. Quite sadly. Like when you split and double down, and the dealer hits 21. The line ran from the counter all the way past the chicken-ordering area, past the Pepsi dispenser, past the Coke dispenser, past the iced tea dispenser, past the hot chocolate/cappuccino dispenser, to the coolers along the back wall. I strolled down the middle aisle, and stood waiting with my elbow on a stack of royal blue cases of Busch.

The chubbier of the two tattooed dudes meandered across the back, carrying two individual bottles of beer. I didn't know they sold singles. Except for those giant tall cans that the workingmen buy in the evening. Chubs started to join his two compatriots, then noticed me. "Oh. I'm sorry. Go ahead."

"That's okay. I'm waiting for the line to get to the soda machine." He stepped in front of me, and kissed his long-braided girlfriend. The line moved slowly. I rounded the bend. Refilled my cup with ice and the magical elixir that is Diet Coke. The Rumours crew had stopped for chicken. I was stuck in line between the backs of the chicken people on my left, and the shelves of bottled liquor on the right. In front of me stood a bony 20-something in dirty jeans and a faded blue t-shirt topped by a mesh glowy orange roadworker vest. Several folks were ahead of him, engaging the two cashiers, the fast friendly girl who only works once in a blue moon now, and the tall black-haired man with one tooth who aspires to be a factory worker. I knew they would clear it out as quickly as possible. The problem seemed to be an older guy trying to pay for gas and buy PowerBall with his own number picks. Something wasn't working. Something like his credit card. So he got out some more. He apologized for the trouble, and the clerk apologized for the inconvenience.

The weirdo entered. And was immediately attracted to me. Like sophomore boys to free food, toddlers to sharp implements, and Hick to a public auction.

She sported bleached blond hair, and a bloated face like a sometimes alcoholic. I would put her age well into the forties. Her clothing, though I could not get a good look, what with the sardining of the patrons, would have been along the lines of bikini-line cut-off frayed jean shorts, and a pastel, tangerine-colored halter top. She broad-shouldered her way through the crowd, swimming upstream until she mistook me for bait.

"Is this the line?" She directed the question to me alone.

"Yes." Just the facts. Nothing more. I had no desire to engage.

"Seriously?" She peered into my face from a distance of about three inches. I had very little room to recoil, what with fifteen flavors of schnapps on the elbow-height shelf beside me. I resisted her attempt to draw me in. She wasn't getting any embellishment from me.

"Are you freakin' serious?" Something told me that she did not regard it as a rhetorical question. But that's how I treated it.

"Seriously." More of a statement. A judgment on the length of the line in the gas station chicken store. The liners behind me must have been boring into her conscience with their eyes. She finally brushed past me and the Rumours crew like a novice St. Bernard twining through the weave poles at a canine agility competition.

Ser-i-ous-ly. What am I, the spokesman for the Waiting Your Turn In Convenience Stores Board? What else could she have been thinking? I wish I'd had the nerve to tell her:

"Nope. I'm not serious. Just pulling your Naired, Coppertone Q-T-ed leg. This is not really the line. Thirty of my close friends and I decided to pull a prank on you. When we saw you turn onto the parking lot, we all hustled in here and packed ourselves around the aisles and counter so you would have to wedge your way in. Ha ha! We're not even buying these things. We already had them when we walked in. I just love a good prank. If only somebody could get the security camera footage, we could put it on YouTube. Go right on up front. Those two clerks are here to serve only you."

Weirdo. Magnet.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Get Your Val Shares Here!

Yes. I am shamelessly traipsing up and down the stadium steps, a metal tray of shares in Val stock at the ready, hawking my certificates like there's no tomorrow. My value is descending faster than those Guinness Record Book motorcycle-riding fattest twins bungeeing off the Azusa Bridge to Nowhere.

The Pony needs a new laptop charger, what with his old one smoking like 1980s-era teachers in the lounge during lunchtime. We headed off to a nearby town after school in search of the elusive Samsung power cord. I had my personal Pony assistant call my mom, who was going to meet us by the park to pick up my last week's tabloids. Drug deals occur there less frequently that dry goods exchanges between Mom and me. "Oh, and tell her she can ride along with us to the computer store."

"Grandma says she's just wearing her old clothes. Is that all right?"

"Sure. She won't have to get out anywhere."

"Okay. She's going."

We picked her up and embarked on our quest for the elusive computer store. "I can't remember the name. It starts with a Z or a D. And it's two words. It's between the Auto Zone and Commerce Bank." Well. I drove by in rush hour traffic, and there was no building between Auto Zone and a different bank chain. We were meandering all round the back of town. "Well, I don't know where it is. We've come all this way and can't find it."

"Do you have a phone number?"

"No. I thought you said you didn't want a universal charger. So I didn't write it down."

The Pony shouted out the name. Seems he had Googled the town and "computer store" on his old laptop, and discovered that instead of being on West Backroads Boulevard, the shop was on East Backroads Boulevard. We found it between a NAPA Auto Parts and a Commerce Bank. Yeah. Amundsen and Scott, seekers of the South Pole, had nothing on us. Though I'm sure The Pony breathed a sigh of relief that we did not run short of food.

But that's not the crux of this story. It's merely the set-up. After buying a power cord, we headed to Arby's. I asked Mom to go in with me to help carry. The Pony chose to wait in the car. I ordered a round of the five for $5.00 junior sandwiches. Two rounds, in fact. Ten sandwiches. And that clerk had the nerve to ask, "For here or to go." Yeah. Suicide by faux roast beef.

But that's not the crux of this story. I parked across two parking spaces. They're small. And one was against the side curb where the drive-thru vehicles exit. Mom was a bit reluctant to go inside. "Oh, I'm wearing these old pants with the hole in the knee. I guess I can let my purse dangle down in front of it." Let the record show that she had on some kind of dark heather gray stretchy kind of pants with a small snag less than the size of a quarter at one knee. Not at all noticeable. And her egg-yolk-yellow t-shirt had nothing wrong with it.

Of course while we were waiting by the soda machine after getting The Pony a root beer, a work colleague of my sister approached Mom to chat. You remember my sister, right? The wife of the ex-mayor? She just retired. She took Mom out for ice cream yesterday, though Mom asserted that SHE was the one who paid, like that canceled out the good-deededness of the outing.

And now, we're getting closer to the crux of this story. Mom was beside herself that she ran into somebody who knew her. Never mind that everyplace Mom goes, she runs into somebody who knows her. She's the Norm of the Backroads community. So what does Mom do, when talking to this friend of my sister? "Oh! I'm so embarrassed. I didn't plan to get out of the car. Or see anyone I knew. I usually don't look like this. This is terrible. Look! I've even got a hole in my pants!" She moved the purse. Bent her knee at a hole-flattering angle. The friend assured her that it was fine. That she didn't even notice. She had only wanted to say hello.

We grabbed our provisions and left, stepping out into the sunlight and judgmental gazes on our way to the two parking spaces. When we got back to the car, Mom started laughing. "That always happens to me! I should never have come with you like this."

"You know, it might not have been as noticeable if you hadn't followed her to the counter, yelling, 'Look at this hole in my pants! I've got a big hole in my pants. I'm so embarrassed by this hole in my pants.' All while swinging that purse around and sticking your knee up like a drum majorette."

"Oh! Stop! We always do this! Now you've got me tickled."

I headed back to our rendezvous point. "Do you want anything, Mom? A soda to go with your sandwiches? There's Sonic. A Diet Cherry Coke?"

"No. I don't need anything."

"Well, I'm going to pull in there anyway. And make you get out, and parade up and down in front of both sides of cars, shouting, 'Hole in my pants! Hole in my pants! Looky here! I've got a hole in my pants!' Next time I'm going to call you early in the morning. Hey, Mom. Come ride with me. No need to change out of your pajamas. And I might accidentally catch my finger in the steering wheel, and need to stop by the ER for x-rays, and you'll need to go in with me, of course...

Here comes the crux of this story. Inside Arby's, Mom had waved a ten-dollar bill and asked me if I had a five. No. She said, "I was going to give you some money, but all I have is a ten. Do you have a five in the car?" No. Next thing I knew, Mom went out to ask The Pony what kind of soda he wanted, and when she came back, she had TWO DOLLARS folded up in her hand, and she shoved them in my shirt pocket. And even though there was mention of me possibly getting change after my purchase, after all that pants-hole camaraderie, MOM DID NOT GIVE ME ONE MORE RED CENT!

That, my friends, is the crux of this story. I AM NOW THE TWO-DOLLAR DAUGHTER!!!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Val Entertains Two Guests

I am entertaining tonight. No, I'm not just saying that so you'll read this in hopes of actually being entertained for once. I mean entertaining. As in hosting guests. It's not a raucous party. Those days are over. Though I will admit that Val has tickled quite few funny bones in her day.

My guests are resting on the couch, propped up on pillows, taking in the ambiance that is Val's humble abode. They don't talk much, these guests. Not talk show material. And they need a bit of powder to cut down the shine on their countenances. They're quite laid-back. Content to share the spotlight. They've not asked for food or drink. I'm not sure what Hick thinks of them. I left them upstairs alone with him briefly. I can imagine the interaction. Hick flopped back in his recliner, staring silently at them. They staring back at him.

The Pony and I picked up our guests down at the end of the gravel road, at the mailboxes. It's really hard to give directions right to our front door. Traffic virtually stopped while we gathered them into T-Hoe. They shared the second seat next to The Pony, since my purse, bubba cup, and school bag were taking up space on the shotgun seat. I recognized them the minute I saw them, even though they were traveling incognito. The Pony was quite gracious, bearing them across the blacktop to the car. I kind of felt bad that my guests had been waiting so long. Since noon, probably, when their ride from town dropped them off.

We won't really get to know each other until the weekend. I can't wait to see what they have to say. Oh. Allow me to introduce you to my guests:

Please excuse my guests for their lack of focus. I am not a portrait photographer. On the left is Not Your Mother's Book...on Being a Parent. And on the right, Not Your Mother's Book...on Home Improvement. Oh, pardon me. You might not recognize my writing. There is no Val in real life. My stories are: "Cheese Cutting," on page 48 of NYMB...on Being a Parent. And "Plier-Lamping 101" on page 58 of NYMB...on Home Improvement.

If you should choose to welcome my guests into your home, I promise they will be entertaining.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Backroads Used To Be a Quiet Little Town

I saw a headline in the local paper today. Something about an employee shooting the boss. Of course I clicked on it. Wouldn't you? That's almost as good as the head in the septic tank. We're a regular wild west gunslingin' frontier town these days.

Apparently the employee was confronted by the boss, about who knows what. It's not like our Backroads reporters are in the running for a Pulitzer. They do good to get the what and where. And yes, I meant to write "good" instead of "well." One of those reporters might be reading this, you know. And I don't want to slow them down.

When I saw the name of the business establishment, I chuckled. To myself, or course. It wouldn't do for Val to be laughing maniacally all by her lonesome. This incident happened at the place where Genius goes to sell his scrap metal. Not by choice, of course. But because it's the only place around here open on the weekend. The preferred scrap business is owned by a guy of some religious affiliation that does not condone work on Saturdays. So throughout the school year, when Hick and Genius had scrap for Genius to haul around and sell just to get a cut of Hick's action, he went to this shooting gallery.

The boss wasn't hurt too severely, I suppose. Something went through his shoulder. I'm waiting to see the comments on the online article. The first time he went there, Genius said, "That's a front for something else." Yeah. He's a regular Sherlock. All the kids at school know that. One even said his grandpa took an old junker there, and the dude asked if he had the title. Nope. So the dude assured him he would crush that junker today.

I've a good mind to email the link to Genius. I think he'd get a laugh out of it. And be thankful that he still has two good shoulders.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

At Least I Didn't Have to Fake a Spasm

Yesterday I woke up with a stabbing pain in my upper outer right arm area. It hurt like I had actually been stabbed. With a red-hot, razor-sharp, salt-encrusted jabby thing. To the bone. That would be the humerus, for those of you who did not pursue a bachelor of science degree in the sciences. The pain was in that deltoid muscle that abducts the humerus.

I could hardly walk, it hurt so bad. Yes. I know that should be "badly," but it hurt so much yesterday that it took away my adverbiality today. And no, before you ask, I do not walk on my arms. The pull of gravity set off the sharp stabby pain. I wanted to strap my lower arm across my torso like a dislocated shoulder person in a canvas harness.

The cause of my injury remains a mystery. Did Hick lay his fifty-pound bowling-ball head on my arm while I was in REM? Did he flip head-to-toe and stab me with a sharpened fragment of his great-toe nail? Was somebody (I'm thinking about YOU, Madam) thrusting hatpins into a voodoo doll of my likeness? The pain took my breath away. I was virtually incapacitated. So I called my mom. Using my left hand, of course.

"Oh, honey! Do you want me to drive out there? I don't know if there's anything I can do. But I'll try."

"No. I can't think, the pain is so bad. It takes my breath away. OW! I can't even move a little bit. I have to get where it doesn't hurt, and freeze. It hurts so bad I want to cry. And I have to do the Walmart shopping this morning."

"Oh, cry! Cry. That might make it feel better. It can't hurt any worse. Why don't you rub some ActivOn on it? Can I meet you at Walmart and put things in your cart for you? And help you unload it at home?"

"Nooooo. I have The Pony. But I think I will try that ActivOn, if I can grip it to get the lid off."

Aha! That's my mom's new cure-all. ActivOn. One of her old-lady friends recommended it. I took her to Walmart and found a box of it. Actually, it comes in a little plastic round dispenser like a glue stick. Looks like glue, too. The clear kind. I used some on my lower arm one day, and it worked. So I tried it on my newest ailment, even though the pain of it pressing against my flesh was almost unbearable.

By the time I got home from shopping, the pain was almost gone! It was a miracle! I assure you, I do not have blood like pure Rocky Mountain spring water. That's what Robby Benson's roommate said about him after giving him a pill to make him play better, in the best basketball movie ever, One on One, written by Robby Benson himself and his very own dad, back when Robby was at the height of his cuteness. Here's a bad clip to give you a taste.

Nor do I have blood that is pharmaceutical soup, like what I imagine runs through Keith Richards's veins.

I have Goldilocks blood that is just right for absorbing that ActivOn and ridding me of horrendous, debilitating pain.

If only all of my ailments were so receptive to treatment. One thing's for sure. A little dose of late '70s Robby Benson can't hurt.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Hello Tunnel Vision My Old Friend

What festivities did Val have on her calendar for this Labor Day weekend? Nothing much. No annual picnic with lemonade and greased flagpoles and a baseball game between the men of Backroads and Walnut Grove. Nope.

The day dawned bright and early at 7:45. Have I mentioned that I'm a night owl? First on the agenda was laundry. I tossed in a load of The Pony's school shirts. He doesn't have a uniform. It was just the shirts that are not faded, stained, or snagged. The ones I hang around the laundry room to dry.

Did I tell you that The Pony was sick last week? He even missed last Saturday with his grandma, until he was sufficiently noncontagious by this Friday to spend the night. He dumped those togs in the laundry basket Saturday night when he returned. I tossed them in the washer this morning, including his school pants from Friday, and a couple of pairs of my granny panties and black socks. Sorry to burst your PG-13-rated thought bubbles, guys. I hate to be the one to break the news that not all of the fairer sex wear butt floss for foundation garments. Nor do we host weekly topless slumber party pillow fights, or settle our differences with tops-ripped-off, eye-clawing catfights.

Imagine my consternation when I went to retrieve those clean clothes from the washer, and found the entire lot dotted with wet tissue particles. It appears that The Pony's snotty snoot had cleared enough that he did not need to use his pocket tissues to wipe it during school hours. I have not gone through that boy's pockets since about third grade, when The Pony was not-heaven-bent on bringing home the playground 50 pebbles at a time.

I called my little Pony to the laundry room. "Grab those clothes and start peeling the tissue off them. Get the kitchen wastebasket." He did an admirable job. The only casualty was a pair of my grannies, which I dropped into the wastebasket while shaking. For some reason, The Pony found this hilarious. So I told him when he was done, he needed to get the broom and dustpan from the crack between the washer and the wall, and sweep up the tissue particles that covered the gray ceramic tile floor.

Please do not judge me when I reveal that The Pony grabbed those cleaning implements, and said, "I never knew we had this broom!" Teenage boys are simply unaware of what goes on behind the scenes to provide them with a roof under which to eat sandwiches and lay around turning their spine to jelly. I cautioned him not to shake that dustpan so the tissues flew back onto the floor. Keep it over the wastebasket. Or open the laundry room door and dump it on the porch, where it could blow away.

I called my mom for sympathy. She's usually great for making me feel better like that. I thought she might offer to drive out and pick the tissue from the clean laundry, and I could magnanimously declare, "Oh, you don't have to do that! You do so much for us already." But no. Do you know what she said?

"Why didn't you just step out on the back porch and shake them?"

What kind of a genius is SHE? All these years, hiding her MENSA card, refusing to pass down those genes to her $8 daughter. She is probably at this very moment negotiating a contract with the feds for the rights to her perpetual motion machine, and awaiting a patent on her better mousetrap.

My valedictorianship pales in comparison.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Bleach's Pet

I fear that my rescue-pup-now-adolescent-doggie Juno and I are growing apart.

Several mornings last week, she did not run along the porch for petting as The Pony and I headed off to school. And when we returned home, she did not always run to the garage door, sneak in for a mouthful of Meow Mix, stop the garage door from closing as her getaway trot tripped the sensor, and magically appear on the porch for a hug. I know that her black borador fur is a warm coat for this sweltering weather. I don't begrudge her more time in the hollowed-out dust bowl under The Pony's truck beside the garage.

We used to be so close. Twice-a-day sweet nothings. Fur pressed to flesh. Loving gazes from her amber eyes to my hazel. Juno actively jockeying for position, physically broadcasting that no fleabags need aspire to the stroke of Val's palm, so that Tank the beagle and Ann the shepherd had to hang back from the porch edge, lest they be shouldered into the sidewalk abyss.

On Thursday, Juno lay on the porch and watched me come out of the garage and up the steps! She made no move to receiver her lovin'. And ANN WAS CLOSER TO ME THAN SHE WAS!

I ran the past week through my mind. Had I upset her sweet, sweet nature? Ignored her advances? Shunned her unknowingly? No. I had not. It was her, not me.

Last night at 11:30, I stepped out the basement door to pour out the life fluid of D'Hummi, the dehumidifier. And there was Juno! She was shoulder high, laying on the deck of Poolio, in the corner formed by the railing. She turned to look over her shoulder at me. I could almost hear her saying...

You know when George Costanza thought he had a heart attack, and was laying in that hospital bed, and said that Jerry should just kill him now, so Jerry pushed a pillow onto his face just as Elaine came through the door, and said fakely, "Elaine! What are YOU doing here?"

Yeah. I could hear Juno's doggy brain telepathing such a question to me. "Val! What are YOU doing here?"

She trotted down the pool deck steps and came across the flat rocks to me in the alcove by the basement door. Of course I petted her. Leaned over to hug her as best I could. Then I told her it was almost midnight. That I needed to pour a bit of bleach into D'Hummi's gullet to keep him fresh. So she should go back to bed. I'd see her in the morning. Juno leaned against my leg. I stroked her silky side. Then I grabbed the bleach jug and twisted off the cap. Juno stuck her head up under my shirt to put her wet nose on my belly. She likes to do that when my hands are busy. Like when I'm tossing stale bread to the chickens off the front porch.

I think we're besties again.