Thursday, October 31, 2013

Maybe I'll Branch Out into the Cookbook Arena

Hey! I'm sure some of you are gourmet cooks. Or at least gourmet eaters. Do you know what one of these things is called? Or what it's used for?

I used to know. I have four of them. But now in my dotage, I cannot remember why they came with a set of grilling implements. Is it like a Hungry Man Dinner, a BIG fork intended for those Paul Bunyan types of guys? Like Campbell's Chunky Soup, so hearty and filling that NFL players survive on it? I know it's not a trident. Duh. I know my prefixes. Any trident looking like that would end up at the Trident Factory Outlet Store.

Come on. I'm sure all of you know what it is. Maybe it's just a special fork used to eat a big salad that one person paid for and another person handed to you.

Since I don't remember the real used, I'll let you in on a little secret. Here's what we use it for around here:

Indoor marshmallow roasting! Just turn on the electric burner, hold close to glowing metal, be ready to send your teenager to fan underneath the smoke alarm, and VOILA! Stove-roasted marshmallows!

You're welcome for that recipe. I might start compiling a cookbook to sell on the counter of my proposed handbasket factory. So far, I have three recipes: Chex Mix, Tower of Soup, and Stove-Roasted Marshmallows.

You know you want one.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Fool Me Once, Shame on Me. Fool Me Twice, BAD DOG JUNO!

Does anybody know a good dog whisperer? A doggy psychologist? Not-Heaven's Bells, I'll even take a pet psychic. Or that "Walkies!" lady from the BBC, Barbara Woodhouse, even from beyond the grave. My sweet, sweet Juno is fast becoming Backroads Enemy Number One.

I blame myself, really. Juno needs a purpose in life. Lurking around under The Pony's truck in a hollow scratched out of the gravel, laying in wait to ambush Mr. Turkey and pull out his tail, or tossing a brown rubber chicken with only one yellow foot into the air to play a game of one-sided fetch it not what my sweet, sweet Juno was meant to do. I need to take her up the road a piece, to the guy who has sheep. Then she'd be happy. Can't say the same for the sheep.

Yesterday afternoon I stopped to give her some extra loving care. Perhaps she simply feels neglected. It had rained most of the day, so she was probably cooped up on the porch. All three dogs ran to the side porch for some Val love. Of course I spent most of my time with Juno. Ann the black german shepherd is not all that bright. A quick pat and the mention of her name is enough to satisfy her, even though Juno feels the need to thrust herself between us for my undivided attention. Even Tank the beagle strolled over for a pat. I worry about him. He gets too near the edge, and Juno is quick to bump him off, which would not bode well for his stocky physique. I usually can act as a cushion to keep him topside.

So yesterday I was hugging Juno, letting my hand extend over her back to pat pat pat the head of Tank or Ann. Juno commenced to squirming like a red wiggler being impaled on a barbed J-hook. She was all feisty with pent-up energy. I always talk to her during our lovefests. "Now, know there's plenty of Val's love to go arou--"


Juno did not just feint toward my oral cavity. This time she landed a direct hit on my lower lip. I was wary from the start, and was watching for it. But she's just so darn good. She's an Olympic-caliber mouth-noser. I sputtered and spit. Anybody passing by might have thought I was foaming at the mouth. At least I did not chomp down and cop a chew on her slimy black proboscis.

This little inmate is running our asylum. I've got to put my foot down. But she's just so darn lovable. Says Val. But not Hick or The Pony. Could it be that I am not objective where Juno is concerned? I can't bring myself to swat her with a rolled-up newspaper. Or even speak harshly to her. She did not get a good start in life. I indulge her whims.

Maybe I'll just see if Hick can find me one of those Friday-the-13th Jason hockey masks at the auction. I'm pretty sure that if they'll stop a puck, they'll stop a dog's nose.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

They're Gonna Love That Sweet, Sweet Nose in Prison

Exhibit A

The Defendant

How do you plead?

The defendant consults her attorney.

Your honor, if I may approach the bench...

What you have here is circumstantial evidence, at best.

I say you drop the charges, and my client will seek a 90-day shock treatment program for her addiction to brown rubber chickens with one foot chewed off.

As the sun sets over Backroads, the victim treads lightly in the background, more harm done to his pride than to his body. The alleged perpetrator shows remorse.

Monday, October 28, 2013

We Know You're Not From Here

I turned off the blacktop and onto my gravel road around noon yesterday, and was slowed by dog walkers.

That's right. Five miles from town. Out in the sticks. On a road that's not even a blue highway on a state road map. Dog walkers. I immediately sensed their foreignness. Definitely not Backroads dwellers. They had to be city folks, out for a Sunday drive in no-man's land. Roughing it. On an adventure with their four-legged friends. The signs were all there.

First was the big sign. The sign nailed up on a tree ten feet into our gravel road. "Private Property. No Trespassing." Parking one's truck on the edge of the gravel road past that sign kind of counts as trespassing, you know. That's why we used to have a big metal gate with a chain and a padlock, until too many people actually built homes on their property and didn't want to get out and unlock it. The free part of the road is the blacktop, by the bridge, by the creek. Nobody can own a creek. Your dogs can pee to their heart's content in the creek, or along the blacktop right-of-way.

The second sign was the truck. It almost fooled me. A pickup truck, by cracky! Then I noticed the color-coordinated, locking bed cover. No. We don't normally have those. They don't fit right with a toolbox mounted against the cab. And it's hard to haul stuff under a cover.

The coats on the man and woman were a clue. Coats! At only 54 degrees! Who wears a coat in such balmy weather? Not Backroadsians. And not in such bright neon green. That color is for road workers. Besides, a Backroadsian will still be wearing his wife-beater sleeveless ribbed white t-shirt at 54 degrees. If the temperature drops below freezing, he might throw a flannel shirt over it. Below zero, it's a sandstone-colored Carhartt cotton-duck jacket.

And another thing. Backroadsians do not run around with their women. Guys hang out with other guys in their pickup trucks. The gals stay at home. Man and woman together in the woods on a Sunday afternoon? Not in these parts.

The dogs themselves were out of their element. So excited! Two big black ones, and a brown one. I didn't get a good look at the breed, though I'm sure they were not simply mutts. They were so hyped up that two tried to run out in front of me. Perhaps to shove their snouts in my mouth for a good chewing, or because they were so over-stimulated by the country aromas wafting on the wind. Thank goodness the doggies were safe, because they were on leashes!

Major clue! Backroadsians don't take their dogs anywhere on leashes. And they most certainly don't have the leashes hooked to nice harnesses that fit each dog like a tailor-made suit. Backroadsians lower the tailgate of the coverless pickup bed of their truck, give a whistle, and Fido and Rover hop in for a ride. They pace side to side, sniffing the air as they fly down the highway. If the Backroadsian makes a stop at a gas station or Walmart, the dog stays with the truck. It would never enter Fido's mind to hop out and run off after a scent. He jumps up on the metal toolbox and barks as people walk by. He's protecting his truck.

I didn't witness it from this particular couple, but I've seen it at the front-lawn dog toilet that locals call The Dairy Queen. The method of rehydrating the canines. Nobody around here carries a collapsible water bowl, into which they pour bottled water. Backroadsians motion for the dog to jump down from the truck, where it will drink from a muddy puddle.

Yeah. We know you're not from here. But for the sake of the dogs, we look the other way.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Tome Inscribing

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a book signing for a guy I went to school with. I stumbled upon it by accident, whiling away the 50 minutes of my plan time, reading the local paper online. They had run a front-page article, with his picture, a week or two before. So I was pleasantly surprised to read in the calendar of upcoming events that he was signing his futuristic historical novel. It's about Civil War soldiers who pass through a cave that's a time warp, and come out in the future, where they assume the war is still going on.

This signing was in the public library, a building I used to work in when it was the unemployment office. The Pony and I parked T-Hoe in the lot, and proceeded to seek entrance. The first door had a sign that directed us to the front. So did the second door. We walked about 270 degrees (for all the math teachers) around that venue when we could have parked on the street right by the door. As I went by the main desk, I waved my copy of the paperback, which I had ordered from Amazon, unaware of this signing.

I saw my old classmate seated at a wooden table, talking to three people. Good. I wasn't the only one to show up. I moved closer, and waited a polite distance of three giant steps, or ten baby steps. Close enough so people could see that I was next, and far enough not to interrupt their interaction. It didn't take long to figure out that these three people were in the same family, and buying one copy of the book.

Let the record show that Val is not a snob. She worked in an insurance salvage store, by cracky! She doesn't put on airs. She wears Crocs! But I must share with you the absurdity of my signing experience.

This is Backroads. People here are not privy to the ways of book signings. In fact, they would snicker if anyone said the word privy out loud. It has another meaning here. These are my people. Good to the bone. Mostly honest, and hardworking. The country was build upon their backs. In fact, it put some of their backs on disability. But they are generous to a fault. Impressed with a local author. Just not all that well-versed in book-signing etiquette.

The three musketeers lingered. They saw this event more as a family reunion, with their adopted author. I won't go into detail on their appearance. Let's just say that if this post was all about them, I would have titled it "The Three People You Take Pictures of in Walmart." It was a mom, a dad, and an adult son. The kind you know lives in the basement and plays computer games all day. WAIT A MINUTE! THAT DESCRIBES MY SON! Except for the adult part.

Anyway, these three went on and on about old times. I gathered that they were once neighbors, or the son had been a student of the author at one time. They asked if Author was still teaching. Really? His picture wasn't in the yearbook. Not even under "Playing Hooky," or "Not Picutured." They acted like he was lying to them.

Author was trying to wrap it up. "I guess I should just sign this to 'The Walmart Family.' Or do you want someone's name in it?" They agreed, and the son proclaimed that HE was reading it first. Author nodded to me. "Where did you get THAT? I'm the only one that has paperbacks." He was surprised I got it from Amazon in three days. Apparently it's a print-on-demand book.

The Walmart Family was having none of that. They drew the attention back to themselves. "Come by and visit with us. If the silver van's not there, the red van should be there." I learned that they had not been able to find the library. That they had to ask the police for directions. And that Walmart Jr. had just had a tooth pulled, and had gone through two knee surgeries. In addition, the Walmart Family home had been struck by lightning, which destroyed their stove and refrigerator and several other major appliances.

I know they were there before I was. And had as much right to have a book signed as I did. Maybe more, because they bought it directly out of Author's cardboard box. But seriously. They were taking my rightful place as a former classmate of Author! I wanted some face time. Mother Teresa herself could have raised my ire if she was all peaceful and patient and stepped in front of me to have her book signed. Because who has the nerve to be dead and cut in line at a book signing? I don't care who you are.

After 20 minutes of standing, listening to the Walmart Family drone on about themselves, my attention started to wander. I noticed a woman furtively peeping out from the shelves in the area that long ago housed my unemployment office cubicle. She exuded the attitude of Kathy Bates just before hammering James Caan's legs to put him in Misery. I glanced at some paperback shelves. Kathy Bates kept popping up in various locations like Waldo. Finally she plopped down in an overstuffed faux-leather chair near The Pony, no doubt contemplating the best moment to bring in the sledgehammers in her trunk. I wondered if she'd been there before me, and had slunk off when exasperated by the Walmart Family. Oh, well. Too bad, so sad. I held the title to the prime piece of next-in-line real estate now. Which reminded me, I needed to step back over there.

Just in the nick of time, too. There was a new gal in town. Who might have been a body double for Lulu in To Sir, With Love, had she been born several decades earlier. I gave her the stink-eye and rushed back to my rightful on-deck spot. Unfortunately, she was either a close-non-talker, a stalker, or one who has no concept of personal space. Blondie was in my hip pocket. Heck, she could have been in my hip-replacement, so close was she. With each inhalation, I virtually committed assault.

The Walmart Family ran out of sad-sack tales, and bid their adieu. I was dying to sit down across the table from Author for a little tete-a-tete. But Blondie surged forward with me. I feared that she would ensconce herself on my lap (oh, who are we kidding, Val has no lap) so as to insinuate herself between me and author. Alas, our chat was brief. Turns out Author knows Hick! He lived next door to Hick's first girlfriend way back in high school, though Hick was a few years ahead of us both, and went to a different school.

Author complained that the Backroads internet rag had run his Local Author article a week AFTER a previous book signing. Now they were not on speaking terms, and were even chilly to his liaison. He did, however, write out his number on an index card in case we ever want to do business together. That's all he had time for, what with Blondie giving him meaningful looks, butting in, saying "Hi" while it was still my turn.

I felt sorry for Miserable Kathy Bates.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Wanton Disregard For Hygiene

I confess. I've been holding out on you.

There has been a slight update on the dog-nose-chewing incident. I can't imagine why I didn't want to revisit that moment in time. My mom sure likes to reminisce about it. She starts laughing like Carol Burnett, Harvey Korman, Lyle Waggoner, Vicki Lawrence, and Tim Conway in the middle of an Old Man sketch. Like Ricky Ricardo when Lucy is foiled in one of her outrageous attempts to outsmart him. Like Roseanne in the opening credits of her first season.

Two weeks ago, when The Pony and I were carrying in groceries, Juno came to greet me. Ever since my taste of canine snout, I've been cautious. I still engage in our lovefests, but I'm wary. On high alert to avert my head should my sweet, sweet Juno fling her muzzle towards my pie-hole. She mostly behaves. But every now and then, Juno rears her silky head. You know how it goes. B.F. Skinner found out that a behavior will continue, even if only rewarded one out of ten times. No extinction for my Juno's nose-jabbing. She got a taste of me getting a taste of her snoot, and now she wants more.

It did not help matters that she ran to the grocery bags I plopped on the porch and took a quick sniff. Thus causing The Pony to crow that, indeed, "Juno DOES get into the groceries. Just like Dad said." Poppycock! She is just inquisitive, that's all. Maybe a missing person touched one of those grocery items while loading a freight truck, and Juno is on her way to becoming a famous rescue mutt. At no time did she insert that tasty nose of hers into the bags.

So there we were, after the novelty of the missing person wore off, Juno and me, lovin' it up. Then all at once, my sweet, sweet Juno forsook me for another. She took two steps across the side porch toward the garage door. To the cat we don't like very much, Dusty, with the crinkled ear, who was arching her back, rubbing against the cedar siding of the garage wall, indicating that she would very much like me to open that door back up so she could run in and consume some stale food that Juno had not gotten to yet. Allegedly.

Juno's mission was not to poke Dusty with her sharp, herding (yet delicious) nose, thus eliciting a playfight. Nor was it to run Dusty off so the spotlight would be on herself. Nope. Juno just had to step over and insert her pre-chewed nose directly into the inviting feline anus of that darn cat. Not simply a polite little sniff. Inserted. Like a proctologist without a glove. She was two nostrils deep in that puckered orifice. I blame Dusty. She didn't have to raise her tail like an exclamation point, now did she? Like the two of them don't have all the live-long day to play Who Sniffed Your Anus?

Just as quickly as she was gone, Juno returned to my loving arms. Raised her quivering snout toward my face. My mouth clamped shut tighter than Jerry Seinfeld's when his date Audrey offered him a piece of Poppie's pizza.

The horror just got real.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Universe Conspires to Mock Me

You know how occasionally you deliberately or accidentally send a wish out there, and in a few days it comes back? Sometimes that's not really a good thing.

Oh, every now and then, it's nice. Like only yesterday on the way to school, I complained to The Pony about a song we hadn't heard on our SiriusXM Prime Country music station. "Hey. We haven't heard Private Andrew Malone in several months. I'd really like to hear that one again. Genius always liked it, too." And wouldn't you know it, when I took my mom for a ride to pay the bills today, that very song came on the radio. I heard it in its entirety. Mom even held her tongue and didn't interrupt. I just looked it up, and the actual title is Riding With Private Malone, by David Ball. If you're a country hater, don't listen. Keep on hatin'. It's a free country.

Then there are the times a thought goes out into the universe, and you don't really want it to come back. It's like Gage in Pet Sematary. Best forgotten. Try to move on. Of course I'm leading up to a prime example.

Last night, during commercials in the World Series broadcast, I grabbed one of the multitude of junk mail catalogs that EmBee the green wide-mouthed mailbox stuffs herself with, which I peruse in order to cut out odd items and mail to Genius. This one happened to be from Signals. Not that I've ever bought anything from it. Most items are just not my style. And expensive, to boot! But sometimes they're funny. Or unusual.

There it was, in the top right-hand corner. A picture of an item I did not recognize. What in tarnation IS that thing? I looked closer. Some kind of pendant.

Then I read the description. Personalized Dog Nose Charm. Yeah. THE HORROR! Make it stop! Seems like only yesterday I wrote of my unfortunate oral violation by my canine's proboscis. Surely you remember it. I Might Be Changing the Name of My Garage Band From "Mommy's Got a Headache" to "Other Dogs' Anuses." Yeah. I had to put in that plug. Because I really like the title. Not because I want to relive that nightmare. My mom still goes into hysterics when SHE brings it up.

Now this. Who in their right mind wants to wear a charm of their dog's nose? And pay upwards of $149 for it? I imagine it costs more if the dog is, say, a Great Pyrenees, as opposed to a chihuahua. Perhaps it's the difference in hefty medallions or dainty charms. Or maybe you can get them in pewter, white gold, or 14k. I don't know. Because I couldn't read any further than the method of procuring Fido's snootprint. Apparently, you order a kit that you use to slap some kind of mold over your beloved pet's nasal cavities. You know. The ones they need to draw breath and remain alive. Then you mail that back to get your charm.

Even more scary is the proclamation: In Stock and Ready to Ship. What? How can they already have my dog's nose in stock? That's just wrong. Is there some kind of database of dog's noses? Maybe that's why my fleabags bark their fool heads off between 4:00 and 7:00 a.m. every day. The dog-nosers are after them. For the database. Pardon me if I do not think it's cool to let a dog snout dangle from my neck.

What's next, a chewy black pacifier?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Don’t Tarry on the Scary

They’re heeeeeere!

Not the uninvited visitors who walk across the floor above my head when I try to relax watching reality shows in my basement recliner. Not Hick’s ghostly jeans hanging in the garage. Not headless people who have come to stand beside that noggin-challenged entity I saw in my basement. Not the thing that poked me in the back of the neck three times while I was sleeping. Not the mystery guest who opened and closed the kitchen and laundry room doors on two separate occasions, one with multiple witnesses. Not the—wait a minute! You’ll have to read that one for yourself.

I just noticed that Spirits of St. Louis:Missouri Ghost Stories is now available on Or you can order it from Rocking Horse Publishing. Or you can just lay around thinking, “Gee, I sure wish I could read that ghost story Val wrote under her real identity, but alas, I don’t know how to get my hands on one of those books.” Don’t be that guy.

There are plenty of other stories to scare the pants right off you, and onto the tire of a bicycle hanging from the ceiling of your garage. Don’t let the thought of forking over your hard-earned 44 oz. Diet Coke allowance for the slim enticement of a Val tale hold you back, bogged down in the quagmire of uncertainty. There are 29 other ghoulish works to rattle your supernatural bone. Blog buddy Donna Volkenannt has penned a piece as well. More likely she keyboarded it, but Val has never been a stickler for details.

C’mon. Halloween is on the horizon. You know you need a good frightening.


Because all business and no funny makes Val a dull gal, I will leave you with this true horror story:

Mr. W. looked out over the eager first-day faces of his class of fifth-graders. “And let me tell you, if you think you’re going to turn in late work in my classroom, you’ll soon find out that I turn into a holy horror.”

The next day, a parent called Mr. W. “My daughter must be a little confused. She came home last night and asked me if men could be prostitutes. When I asked her why, she said that her new teacher told the class he was going to turn into a holy whore.”

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Heat From My Boiling Blood Alone Should Have Done the Trick

I'm sure you know not to feed a Mogwai after midnight, and not to get him wet, and to keep him out of bright light. But you may not realize that a man and boy must not be left unattended for two hours when the temperature drops into the fifties.

Last night I worked late at conferences, while Hick and The Pony met up to pre-bowl for Saturday. The Pony will be taking the ACT that day. Yesterday morning, and again after school, and just before my mom picked up The Pony for the bowling alley destination, I told him, "When you get home, you or Dad will need to turn up the thermostat." Three times. The charm.

I drove home in the cold and dark. Pulled T-Hoe into the garage. Thanked The Pony, who trotted out to carry in my things. Patted my sweet, sweet dog Juno, who greeted me like I was Inman returning to Cold Mountain after an eternity traipsing the sub-Mason-Dixon Line countryside.

I walked into my happy home to find the ambiance much like that of the ice hotel I saw on The Travel Channel. Without the vodka. As soon as my eyeballs unfogged, I saw that the thermostat was cooling its bi-metallic-strip heels at 66 degrees. A temperature fit for neither Val nor beast. Pardon me while I scream, "WHYYYYYY?" in my best Nancy Kerrigan whine. Get it? Because Nancy Kerrigan was an Olympic figure skater. On ice. Which is really cold. Not because some Gillooligan jumped out and whacked my knee with a club.

There rested my warmer half in his La-Z-Boy. Wearing only a pair of tighty-whities. I guess his jeans were hanging in the garage.

"It's freezing in here! How can you sit around like that?" I kicked up the thermostat to 69 degrees. Not the 74 that I prefer, but the 69 that I can afford.

"I think it's comfortable in here." Downstairs, I could see The Pony under a zebra-striped blanket on the couch.

"I can't believe you two didn't raise the thermostat. I think I can see my breath."

"It's fine. I didn't even think about it."

This morning on my way to the kitchen to make lunches, I stopped to crank the heat up to 70. I allow myself the extravagance of an hour with that extra degree to get my blood pumping.


Under cross-examination, Public Enemy Number Hick admitted that he had raised it one degree before he went to bed. Because the man who lounged around in male panties at 66 degrees comfortably, who buries himself under a quilt, head and all, overnight, and who has been known to run the bedroom ceiling fan once I'm asleep...thought he needed seven hours of an extra degree of heat. He might as well have built a bonfire with dollar bills for all that's going to cost us.

Have I mentioned that I'm opening a handbasket factory?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Backroads Warriors

A battle is being waged along the back roads of Backroads. A battle of wills to which there is no easy solution. There will be no winner. Even the winner will be a loser. In times like these, I find it best to keep one's opinions to oneself.

Perhaps I've mentioned that I live on a gravel road. How presumptuous of me. How totally lacking in foresight was I. That's a statement. Not a question. Not even a rhetorical inquiry.

Pardon me while I set the record straight. I live on a dirt road.

Oh, it USED to be a gravel road. Perhaps you can still see the gravel in the photo. That happens to be a portion of the $1500 worth of gravel kindly purchased from the not-so-deep pockets of one individual. Who asked nothing in return. Who hopped on his tractor and bladed the road while the rest of us were at work. Leaving a rocky surface that defied standing water and mudflinging. Sure, the ride was a bit rough. A smaller grade of gravel might have been more appropriate. But still. FREE GRAVEL. And free labor spreading it out.

That magnificent mile lasted about three weeks. Then another dweller took matters into his own wheels. Tired of tirelessly complaining about the rough ride, and how slow he had to drive on the last portion of his homeward commute, AntiRocky threw down the gauntlet. He tractored-up and reapportioned that $1500 worth of gravel to the sidelines. The place where it eventually ends up anyway, needing to be bladed back to the center.

The rain at the end of last week made this section a muddy mess. Did you know that big ol' groovy tires like those on T-Hoe, tires common to those on similar vehicles that make this trek at least twice per day, fling bits of the roadway onto the sides of the vehicles? They do. Carrying away the road small portions at a time.

On Wednesday I passed a local on his tractor, spreading the wealth back into the mainstream for all to enjoy. He looked engrossed in his mission, and barely returned my country-folk wave. As I rounded this bend to the right, then the next to the left, I came upon another denizen on HIS tractor. His wife sat in a Gator, their dog ranging to and fro. THIS neighbor was using his blade to shove the gravel back to the sidelines. I almost though I saw steam coming out his nostrils. He also barely returned my country-folk wave. I had to wave at both, you see, because I don't want them to know which side I'm on. The Rockies or the Dirties.

The stony benefactor is the guy who threatened to shoot Hick one evening, and mouthed off to the resulting county deputy, and cost himself $6000 in lawyer fees to remain a free man. Funny thing is, they're the best of friends now. He even blades our driveway unasked. We stand with the Rockies. Anonymously.

Right now, the Dirties are winning.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Two For You...One More of the 1,423 For Me

On Friday when he bought me the gift of two Gus's pretzels, Hick bought himself a little trinket as well. He paid $20 for his present, and while I did not ask the price of my two Gus's pretzels, I'm pretty sure they cost less than $20.

He found his treasure at Goodwill. Hick is a collector of all things Coca Cola. Or nearly Coca Cola. This one is not associated with the brand, but it IS in Coca Cola colors, and will fit in with his BARn loft decor, and might possible fool somebody who's not a Coca Cola collector into thinking it belongs.

Okay. So it doesn't fit in so much with the decor of the BAR part of the BARn. It fits in with the Coke booth on the opposite side of the loft. However, Hick chose to plop it on top of the family crest on the BAR proper, probably to show off as much of his junk treasure as humanly possible. I will admit that he sent me a picture from a slightly different angle, which I deleted because it showed that last inappropriate item that he bought himself. The one that The Pony called a "drink dispenser." For a moment I did not recognize it in the background. I glanced, and assumed it to be one of those old-timey stand-up telephones with the tall body and cone-shaped earpiece on a wire. Thank goodness my background as a teacher makes me suspiciously attentive to detail.

At the rate Hick is raking in mini-fridges, free showers, drink dispensers, and cast-iron skillets of all sizes, it won't be long until his various outbuildings are completely furnished and suitable for forming our own enclave. Maybe I should sell space. Like those preppers with the missile silo divided into apartments.

I think it would be an appropriate sideline at the outlet store for my proposed handbasket factory.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Waste Not, Want Not, Whatnot

Did you know that I was almost the $100 daughter?

Yeah, baby! I'm movin' on up. Mom waved a benjamin under my nose Friday afternoon at the park. As if we didn't look suspicious enough, me pulling over for her to get in the car, handing her a bag, and having that moolah fanned in my face.

She was worried about my lack of prescription medication for the weekend. At the 11th hour, aka 3:45 p.m., my workplace insurance liaison came through with an override so I would not be found on my back, legs in the air, Xs over my eyes, expired from cold-turkey blood pressure/thyroid med withdrawal Monday morning. And because one of my medications cannot be generic, it costs a pretty penny, and my only alternative was to pay cash so the robber baron insurance magnates could not succeed in my forced extermination. Let the record show that I had enough cash on hand that I did not need Mom's flesh-and-blood money. But it made her feel better to offer it.

Don't think Mom doesn't benefit in this symbiotic relationship. In the biology world, what we have would be termed mutualism. After all, I gave her two slightly-used, gently-read tabloids. And just yesterday, when she returned The Pony to his home pasture, I bagged up a plethora of goodies for her.

Mom's goody bag included a brown banana, a dozen fresh eggs from the nether regions of our very own chickens, six mini sausage biscuits of the brand which I do not like, a small untouched styrofoam container of sweet-and-sour sauce that accompanied Friday night's hot-and-sour soup crispy noodle accoutrement, and the crunchy ends of the long-gone crab rangoon. Yes. I had bitten off the business ends. Mom didn't care. I guarantee you there is no chance Rebecca DeMornay would be advocating the cessation of muffin stump deliveries at a septuagenarian shelter inhabited by my mother.

"You might not want these left-over crunchy bits, because I DID bite off them. I was saving them in case I take a frozen sweet-and-sour chicken dinner in my lunch. But I don't think I will. So you are welcome to them. I can't give you the actual crispy noodle things that go with it, because The Pony likes them. And I was going to give these sausage biscuits to Juno, but I thought I'd offer them to you first."

"Oh, they'll go just great with a batch of gravy I'm going to make tomorrow. It keeps so well in the freezer. I can have one whenever I feel like it. Here. I brought you these crusts off the deep dish Little Caesar's pizza The Pony had yesterday. He said to throw them to Juno out in the yard, but I thought I'd see if you wanted them first."

"No. I don't like their crust. Juno can have it."

I bet you'd never guess that Mom was a child of the Great Depression, huh? Like mother, like daughter. We're a thrifty bunch unless it comes down to fountain Diet Cokes. Oh, and I forgot to give her a stack of old Entertainment Weeklys. There'll be another time.

Let the record further show that Mom left a dollar-fifty for Hick in exchange for the eggs. He's the Buck-and-a-Half Son-In-Law.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Never Look a Gift Hick in the Mouth

Did I ever tell you about the time Hick did something nice for me? No?'s not like he's giving me a lot of raw material to work with. But he did do something nice.

It seems like it was only yesterday. Oh. That's because it happened yesterday. He texted me after school with the announcement that he bought me something. You can imagine my excitement, what with the last item Hick even contemplated buying me being a box of Auction Meat. He was all secretive and mysterious.

I encountered him by chance on the parking lot of the local Chinese restaurant, and he showed me something from the back seat that he bought himself at Goodwill. Then he mentioned that he bought me something, too. But didn't say what it was. Or if it came from Goodwill.

Once Hick arrived home, he presented my gift with a flourish. Two pretzels. AND IT'S NOT EVEN MY BIRTHDAY! Of course the pretzels had a pedigree. They were the Coach, the Louis Vuitton, the Gucci, the Jimmy Choo, the Manolo Blahnik, the Louboutin, the Michael Kors, the Prada, of pretzels. Gus's Pretzels. From the city!

Yes, Hick handed them over with a flourish, lovingly wrapped in white paper towel ripped off a roll in a dispenser in a men's room. Because I know Hick didn't go into a women's room for his paper towels. And pretzel-sellers don't package them in paper towels. You know the style. Thin. White. No pattern. With zig-zag Charlie-Brown-shirt-stripe edges where the teeth of the dispenser severed them from the long roll after cranking.

Modest Hick, a man of few words where gifts for his wifey are concerned. No mention of how he procured these two special treats. Yes. TWO! A rod and a twist. No mention of how many hands touched them. Of whether they were bought from a shop or a street peddler, by himself or a minion sent to the city for machine parts.

I had them for lunch today. They were real, and they were spectacular. Though a bit hard on the outside. And they retained their salt!

I'm still kickin', and Hick is off to the auction. Maybe he'll bring me something!

It's easy to spoil Val.

Friday, October 18, 2013

I'm Just a Big Ol' Horse's Rear

Let's have a sing-a-long tonight. C'mon! Everybody grab a dirty-water cocktail and lubricate the old vocal cords. How about a little Paul Simon? Surely everybody knows some Paul Simon. Not the bow-tied congressman who is no longer congressing. Mr. Garfunkel's better half.

Now we can't sing just any song, no matter how groovy you're feelin'. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it, and hopefully the waters will be untroubled. We're not going to Graceland. You can't call me Al, and you can't love me like a rock.We're not picking up some Kodachrome for a mother and child reunion. It's getting late in the evening, and time is slip-sliding away. We are not meeting Julio down by the school yard.

But I DID meet Hick by accident as I was coming out of the pharmacy and he was going into the Chinese restaurant. Let's sing that one!

I met my old husband on the Chinese restaurant parking lot last night
He seemed surprised to see me so unriled
And we ordered up some carry-out
And no one drank a beer

We're just a couple of horse's rears
We're just a couple of horse's rears

I'm not the kind of Val who tends to socialize
I tend to quote old movies but not plays
And I ain't no fool for current songs
That loudly assault my ears

Classic rock is music to my ears
Classic rock is music to my ears

Four in the morning, new day, dawning
Breather cooties spraying where I lay
I always worry, definitely, shouldn't I
Those germs never fade

Now I sit in my T-Hoe and watch the cars
I fear they'll do some damage one fine day
And I'll see that they're convicted
By a jury of my peers

I'm just a big ol' horse's rear
Oh, I'm crazy, I'm crazy
And a gigantic horse's rear

Hey! That was pretty good. Maybe we'll practice a bit and cut an album. Go out on tour. My garage band composed of Me, Myself, and I can back us. Let's see...I used to call that band Mommy's Got a Headache. But I recently switched. Now what was that name again? Oh, I remember...

Other Dogs' Anuses

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Cleanliness is Next to the Bargain Bin

Hick is up to his old tricks again. No. He hasn't scammed any food items I've been saving for myself, or left onions on the kitchen counter, or infected me with his latest virus as he sprays it through his breather while rooting his arm under my pea-princess-mattress-stack of pillows. He has not even brought home a box of Auction Meat.

But he DID get a bargain.

Last night around 6:15, he called downstairs to The Pony. "Pony! Come help me with something."

"All right." It was spoken with the intonation of Carrie May in the movie The House Bunny. If you haven't seen that gem, and are a fan of comedy in general, or Anna Faris, Colin Hanks, Emma Stone, or Kat Dennings specifically...I suggest you give it a whirl.

"Come on."

"Just a minute. How long will it take? I'm watching Survivor at 7:00."

"Not long. About 15 minutes. We're just going up the way. I need you to help me get a shower." He was not talking about assistance with bathing.

As promised, several short minutes later The Pony returned. I've trained him well, my little thoroughbred. He immediately trotted into my dark basement lair brandishing his phone. "I knew you'd want a picture, but this is the best I could do. I couldn't get far enough away to get the whole thing."

Yeah. That's a FREE shower. FREE! It doesn't matter that we are not in need of a free shower. We had to have it. Because it's FREE, by cracky! I suppose it could go in the BARn. With retirement looming over the two-year horizon, it will be good for Hick to have a place that is self-sustaining.

I am more entranced with the phone photo The Pony took while standing on the tailgate of Hick's truck. Do you see it? That can be a picture of a white shower enclosure rammed up against Hick's truck toolbox. Or it can be a fancy-schmancy metal cooler with a black bottom sitting in a free shower enclosure! Like a lady in a fancy plumed hat, or an old crone. Like a vase, or two faces.

One thing's for sure. Right now we can't use the truck. Or that free shower.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Christmas Came Early to the North End of Backroads

Today I got a mystery package in the mail. Don't you just love to get mystery packages in the mail? Like when you haven't ordered anything? And you can't tell what it is, even by squeezing? Yeah. ME TOO!

I believe I've described EmBee, our round green metal-pipe mailbox who rests in an open-faced coffin of sorts, a long wooden box with cubbies full of other hicks' mailboxes, sunk into the ground three feet on cemented metal pipes (no relation to EmBee).

This afternoon, The Pony hopped out of T-Hoe and pranced over to EmBee. He yanked open her flat round mouth and reached his arm down her throat. It was like a roadside, overgrown game of Feely Meely. Out came a white plastic bag, rolled into the shape of EmBee's innards, a couple pieces of junk mail, and a mail order catalog. The Pony turned that package every which way but loose.

"What's that package?"

"I don't know. Something Genius sent, maybe?"

"You don't understand. Genius doesn't send US things. WE send Genius things."

"I don't get the address."

"WAIT! Is it even addressed to us?" For a moment I had forgotten the not-so-illustrious track record of the dead-mouse-smelling post office.

"I think so." By this time I was driving up our gravel road, with The Pony, my personal mail-sorter, investigating our package.

"What's the return address?"

"I don't know. ABC Capitol Drive. South Backroads."

"That's the main post office! What in the world would they be sending me? Let me feel it." Yes. I can drive up a gravel road and molest a mystery bag at the same time. Heavens to Betsy! The contents of that package defied description. But I'll describe them anyway. There were two longish lumps at both ends. And something very flat in the middle. That curved or bent if you tried to see how flexible it was. "I don't have a clue." We pulled into the garage. "Do you want to open it in here?"

"Not really. It's not MY package."

"It can't be the missing books that they're sending me. Unless they're gutted, and there's only two. But that return address does say, "Customer Service."

I hurried out of T-Hoe, out of the garage, past wiggly Juno with barely a pat pat here, not even enough time to take a bite of nose, and into the kitchen. I grabbed the shears and hacked that baby open.

It was my Walmart check order.

Oh, well. There's more than one way to fool the mailman.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Canary with a Hole in the Knee of Her Pants

I've been a little busy this week. The Pony is readying a short story submission for entrance in the National Young Arts Foundation competition. It's the end of first quarter at school. I've been trying to watch the Cardinals in the playoffs. My books arrived. I've been walking up and down the halls wearing a sandwich board hawking my wares of the print kind. So I've fallen behind a bit in keeping the old cat-house up-to-date.

Last night I decided to watch the first three-and-a-half innings of the game. All was well after the Cardinals batted at the top of the fourth. Zero to zero. I had the DVR going, so I went to my dark basement lair. Around ten, I called my mom. Still from the office, because I didn't want to go out and accidentally hear the score if The Pony had left the TV on the game channel. I had talked to Mom early in the evening, and told her I probably wouldn't call later, because I was going to watch the recording of the game.

Mom answered the phone after a couple of rings.

"Don't tell me anything about the game. I just want to know if it's over. I'm recording it."

"Oh, I'm pretty sure it's over. I quit watching because they were behind."

"Why did you do that? What part of 'don't say anything about the game' didn't you understand?"

"Well, I don't know. Once they got--"


"I was brushing my teeth, and had a mouthful of toothpaste. So I spit it out and ran to answer the phone so you wouldn't think I was asleep."

"One would think that a mouthful of toothpaste might have helped more in stopping you from singing like a canary."

"Well, I didn't think I was giving anything away."

"This is the THIRD time! The other night, I told you I just had a minute because I was watching the game, and you said, 'Oh, I'm glad they got the third out.' And then the Cardinals got the third out. I just thought you were wishing, and it happened. And the next inning, you said, 'Good. They got two out with that double play.' And I wondered, what game is she watching? Because the batter was still walking up to the plate when you said it. Then the Cardinals got a double play. But by now I had figured out that you're not actually psychic, but that your cable is faster than my satellite. And I TOLD you not to tell me stuff like that during a game.

"Oh. Well. If I think of anything else, I can tell you in the morning."

"What if I haven't had time to watch the game yet?"

My mom. The reason nobody can record a game and save it to watch later.

Monday, October 14, 2013

I Look, You Look, We All Look for Val's Books!

Just when you thought it was safe to drop in and read about something like feces transplants, overinflated tires, the habit of chewing on dog noses, sewer vent pipes that look like Ming vases, and septuagenarians with holes in their pants...I find it necessary to revisit the subject of my lost books.


Not so much the lost books. The replacement books. The replacement books graciously provided by the publisher because she's a stand-up gal. What a relief it was to open the garage door this evening and find them sitting there in their particle-board-blending camouflage of cardboard-box brown. Right on top of the generator that lolls about like a relief pitcher, spitting sunflower-seed shells, signing autographs, scanning the stands for comely lasses, and doing a big bunch of nothing until called upon to save the day.

Here's a photo to mark the occasion:

Yes, it's been said many times many ways: Val lives in the past. Please excuse my 2011 calendar. I like the picture. And also excuse that giant-number "wall" phone, brought home by Hick from an old man acquaintance he used to have who used to have this phone. Nothing goes to waste on Hick's watch. Especially a cuckoo clock that I despise like Rene Zellweger as Ruby Thewes despises a floggin' rooster.

Now that the merchandise is in, I plan to strap on my change belt and hit the streets. Not like that. Several folks have been clamoring for one of each of my wares.

I hope they didn't blow their money on 44 oz. Diet Cokes and gas station chicken.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

From the Heights of Machu Picchu

Hick gifted me with two big, bouncing, beautiful new tires for T-Hoe yesterday. Okay, so he didn't wrap them, they weren't a surprise, and I have to pay for them. It's the thought that counts.

I skipped out the door, unencumbered, off to town for a 44 oz. Diet Coke and a few groceries. Backroads was my oyster. As I backed out of the garage, something felt different. Almost as if I was encroaching on the steering wheel. Hm. Maybe I need to cut back on the gas station chicken. That thought flitted across my mind, but since I have not had any gas station chicken for over two weeks, I shoved that flittery thought to the very back of my gray matter, near the rear emergency exit.

Still. Something was different. I jounced up the driveway. Must be that Service Suspension System message that keeps popping up on T-Hoe's control center. Hick said he had it checked when he got the tires, and my air shocks are deflated. Along with my spirit when it comes to him and kitchen-counter onion disposal. Hick said we'll get the shocks over Thanksgiving break. That it's no big deal unless I plan to tow a heavy load. Looks like the stockpile of handbaskets for my proposed factory will just have to pile up in one place for a while.

I could not shake the feeling that I was listing forward. Like a toddler in his stepmother's stiletto heels. Like a puppy having his nose pressed down towards the carpet to acknowledge his indoor accident. Like a Soap Box Derby car at the starting line.

My princess butt detected something amiss. And it was not a pea. I felt like I was driving a monster truck. Over a line of cars that were being crushed under my giant tires. All I needed was a name. Not Bigfoot, Grave Digger, or Undertaker. Those were, as Elaine might say of her saved movie theater seats, TAKEN! But I could be Bigbutt. Or Nose Digger. Or Underwear Picker. I was happily planning my next career when I arrived on the outskirts of town.

As I clambered down from T-Hoe's command center, I glanced at my new tires. Surely not. The rear tires you don't know...perhaps...HUMONGOUS compared to the front tires. I lit up the invisible communication lines right away, firing off a text to Hick at the bowling alley a half mile away. "I think you got the wrong size tires!" He had mentioned, after all, that the shop didn't have the exact same tire as T-Hoe sported on the front from last year. But that he had purchased the same tire in a different brand. Hick, in a few short words, instructed me the equivalent of not allowing my granny panties to bunch up or give birth to a bovine, for he would investigate the incongruency when he arrived home.

Going up the driveway, just before I pushed the garage door opener to try and break its distance record, I checked the fancy gewgaw on T-Hoe's dashboard that tells how many pounds of pressure are in each tire. Front tires: 32 PSI. Rear tires: 42 PSI.

My membership card for Mystery, Inc. remains unrevoked.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Baby Needs a New Pair of Tires

Looks like Val is late to the party. You WERE throwing me a party, weren't you? Not skulking away because of the 15-minute rule. As long as you are all gathered here, waiting with bated eyes to see what Val's subject is this evening, let's take a little poll. What would you like to read about? Hahahaha! You didn't really think I would take your suggestions, did you? Put your hands down before somebody tears a rotator cuff.

I could wax all congenial, and talk about world peace. Or harsher punishment for parole violators. Or I could point out the Even-Stevenness of my world, what with Genius coming home from college today, and asking for $50 gas money to return, then the curious coincidence of scratching off a lottery ticket to find that I won $50. But I think I'll share a little tale of how changing my spots backfired on this ol' Val this afternoon.

T-Hoe has pulled up lame. For the past two weeks, he's been favoring his driver's side rear tire. It loses a pound of air per day. Not a big problem, what with three easy air hoses between home and work. And a faithful Pony to hop out and refill, while I sit in the driver's seat and watch the dashboard tire poundage gadget to tell him "when." T-Hoe has had this problem before, which turned out to be a bad valve stem. A leather-jacket-wearing, insolent, lip-cigarette-dangling, switchblade-totin', greaser-DA-hairstyled valve stem. Last year, that problem was solved by rotating the front tires to the rear, and getting two new front tires. This year, Hick decided I needed two new rear tires. Tires don't grow on trees, you know. It's not like we can run out and buy a bushel. We have to budget. So Hick took my T-Hoe to the tire store this morning.

He returned in time to take The Pony to his bowling league. I took T-Hoe to town for a spate of shopping. Just some bananas, yogurt, onions, and crunchy fish filets. No. They don't all go in the same dish. More about this shopping excursion at a later date. It can stand clear like those Parmalee boys at the showdown between Rooster Cogburn and Lucky Ned Pepper in True Grit. I have no interest in it today.

The town trip itself was fairy uneventful. No traffic Not-Heaven-bent on running me off the road. No road walkers. No bridge blockers. No snakes hanging from tree limbs one shatterproof piece of glass from my face, and only mild weirdos in Save A Lot. I enjoyed the beautiful sunshine after our morning downpour. Slathered my threatening-to-crack lips with mint Chapstick as I do every day during my drive. Surfed my SiriusXM for oldies. I had just returned and finishing putting away my purchases when Hick and The Pony showed up.

They were about 90 minutes early for their bowling return. None of The Pony's opponents showed up, so they bowled a blind, which was speedy. I was firing up my front-window laptop internet connection as they came through the kitchen door. As I started to exit the living room to change out of my presentable town clothes into my comfortable home clothes, Hick started into the living room. We were at an impasse between the short-couch end table and the wooden railing that keeps us from tumbling twelve feet to the bottom of the open basement stairs.

I put my arms around Hick's neck. Some might call it a hug. I calls it a sumo-attempt to work my way past him to leave the living room. Mmmhmmm. At some point during the hugging-squeezing battle for home supremacy, my face ended up on Hick's right shoulder. I pulled back.

"I could swear I just got a hair in my mouth off of your shirt."

"Could be. I went to get a haircut."

I hope you grasp the full horror of this seemingly trivial event. My Chapstick-coated lips picked up snipped hair from Hick's shirt like masking tape wrapped the wrong way around one's hand picks up cat hair off black dress pants.

No Val hug goes unpunished.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Time is Paper

I have some advice for Sprint.

Today I opened my bill, nine pages long, with two pages being full-page promotional materials guessed it...SPRINT! One wants me to turn on my friends and family to Sprint. Like I would wish that on my arch nemesis. I guess it's so hard to turn people on to Sprint that Sprint can afford to pay people $50 for each new customer sent their way. Kind of like tying a pork chop around your unpopular child's neck so at least a dog might play with him.

But it was the other page that rattled my cage. Stuck in my craw. Got my granny panties in a wad. Forced me to have a cow. Became a thorn in my side. Made my blood boil.


No, that's not advice to myself to lay off the cliches and get on with the rest of the story. That's what was on that Sprint-centric page. Nothing on the back. Just large bold letters spelling STOP WASTING TIME. To make me switch over to paperless billing, it seems. Don't you find that a bit ironic? I don't, because I never grasped the meaning of that whole "irony" concept. But maybe you do, and you will.

I have no desire to switch to paperless billing. If the simple act of driving a box of books to my post office without losing them cannot be done by the U.S. Postal Service, what guarantee do I have that Sprint won't incur some glitch that wreaks havoc with my vital information?

Paperless billing is a gateway notification to automatic payment. I'll be having none of that. Sprint already uses the devious tactic of "saving paper" by making customers carefully peel away their billing envelope in order to re-fold it for mailing back the payment. As if becoming an unwilling practitioner of the ancient art of origami will make us divulge our personal information online. I've had it with Sprint's passive-aggressive ways. So here's my advice for Sprint:


Leave out your two pages of self-serving promotions. In fact, that in itself will help me to STOP WASTING TIME sorting through them and complaining about them.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

It Is Nigh on Impossible to Go Unobserved These Days

Do you ever have the feeling you're being watched?

I don't mean like that time my mom went to Hardee's for breakfast with her old lady friends, and one of them swore that every man in the place was undressing her with his eyes.

I don't mean like when you sit in your family room that might have been called a rumpus room back in the fifties if the house had existed way back then, and get up to walk to your mailbox, and find three bags of hedgeapples on your porch.

I don't mean like that time my youngest future stepson finished eating a Halloween Dum Dum at the tender age of five, and jabbed the stick down into the soil of his father's large potted plant, then nearly jumped out of his skin when I asked, "Are you supposed to do that?"

I don't mean like when your apartment has a peephole that is just a hollow tube with no lenses, and your strip of masking tape has dried up and fallen off the inside of the door.

I don't mean like that incident when you were working overtime at your unemployment office job near the Bevo Mill, filing happily to your heart's content, earning an hour of extra pay approved by Bob, you supervisor, while waiting for your husband to get off work from his butcher-product-producing job at Vandeventer and Tower Grove, and looked up and saw a man with his face cupped in his hands and pressed against one of the full-length windows.

I don't even mean like the time you were all alone in a high school gym and the doors to a storage room opened by themselves, revealing a short white figure in the recesses of the dark interior.


I mean like when you're sitting at your desk in your classroom, happier than a pig in excrement, plugging away at your busywork while your students take a test, and just...have...that...somebody's-watching-me feeling. Because looking over your shoulder is this:

Thank goodness he was on the outside of the glass. What next? Some crazy Hunger Games mutation sent to track my every move?

Universe, I shake my fist at you and your conspiratory ways!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Technically, It's Still a Book Signing

Hey! Guess what!

Don't you hate that game? I know I do. I try to come up with something totally obscure or inappropriate. That's because I'm a smart-mouthed BLEEP, at least according to Hick. But enough of me sharing our little terms of endearment.

I was perusing the online Backroads newspaper today, because I am too cheap to pony-up subscription cash for the paper version, which has shrunk over the years to the size of a not-very-expensive-restaurant menu, or a program for the school band concert, even though it still leaves most of its ink on your hands instead of retaining that dark dust on its pages...and I saw, on about page five of internet Community Happenings, a most startling sight.


Who knew? He definitely did not publicize his Happening. How are people supposed to find that, unless they are layabouts who have nothing better to do than scan five internet pages of Community Happenings, weeding through all the Farmers' Markets, Church Bazaars, and quaint Punkin Patch Storytellers? His Happening is on Monday from 5:00 to 7:00. In one of the local libraries, which just happens to have relocated to a building where I used to work when it was the unemployment office.

I think I will drop by to support him. I haven't run into him in Walmart for about a year. Duh! He must have been home writing his book. I picked up a copy on Amazon, and can you believe it, UPS delivered it to my garage with no problems. I guess I need to actually read the thing by Monday. It might be bad form to try to wing it, in case he mentions something about the plot when I chat with him.

What if I'm the only one who shows up, what with people not knowing about it? Then he'll have too much time to talk. He had an article in the paper about his local authorness, but it did not mention this signing. I guess all those folks dropping by the library at 5:00 p.m. on a Monday might stop and talk. Everybody is practically related to everybody else's relatives around here, you know.

I'm dragging The Pony with me. He wants to be a writer. He's the one who advised me not to contact the Backroads paper I've been soaking up for free, with news of my own local authorness, because it doesn't really count unless I write the whole book myself. So sayeth The Pony. Even though he makes no distinction between regular publishing vs. self-publishing.

Oh, well. At least I am providing news of a book signing. And you don't even have to subscribe to me, or borrow me from you mom and get your hands dirty while you strain your eyes.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Ends Tied Here

You there! Hand me that roll of twine. What's that? Magic word? Who do you think I am, David Copperfield? Doug Henning? Lance Burton? You can take your magic word and shove it up your wand, and see how many scarves you can pull out the other end. Magic word. Oh. Wait! Could you there, perhaps, if you're not too involved with berating folks for a magic word, PLEASE hand me that roll of twine?

No. I'm not upgrading my cell phone to two tin cans with a hank of twine strung between them. That only works for local calls. I need to disburse this info to the masses. We're using that twine today to tie up a couple of loose ends. And I don't mean tie Hick's pants around his waist so he can't take them off and hang them in the garage and parade about the grounds in his tighty-whities. Heh, heh. Thought the nightmare was over, didn't you? Sweet dreams, part deux.

Speaking of Nightmare on Val Street...Hick's spirited pants still hang in the garage. The garage I pulled my T-Hoe into this afternoon, where I spied a box from Amazon on the generator that acts as a holder for the nonstick saucepan used to dip dry cat food from the sealed-lid mini trash can it is stored in. That poor UPS driver. At least she likes animals, and always brings a handful of dog biscuits to toss the fleabags. The FedEx dude is deathly afraid. He yanks open the garage people-door, and flings in whatever he's delivering. He says he saw eyes in the garage one time. Imagine seeing a pair of ghost jeans without eyes.

A new box of MY books is being shipped my way, thanks to a kindhearted publisher and CEO who must also be a card-carrying member of Mystery, Inc. The original box of books was last scanned in Hazelwood. Shame, shame, U.S. postal workers between Hazelwood and Backroads! Everybody knows your name, and it's Careless With Val's Books.

My mom talked to her neighbor, who did not leave three bags of hedgeapples on her porch. The neighbor thinks it's the guy down the road. Johnny Hedgeapple from 12 years ago. She thinks that, because he's always out walking. Yeah. Carrying three Walmart bags stuffed with hedgeapples? What is he, a bodybuilder? A bodybuilder with a memory like a rusty 12-year-old steel trap? I wouldn't want anybody traipsing up on my porch, bearing bags of precious insect-repelling hedgeapples or not.

That's about it from the Backroads Hometown Gazette string reporter. More news as it develops.

Monday, October 7, 2013

They Sure Don't Rattle Chains Like They Used To

In the fall, a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of HORROR!

Or jumps to conclusions, perhaps. Logical conclusions for him, based on the level of paranormal activity which seems to manifest itself in his family home.

We're a week into October, you know. Sluicing down the end-of-summer Winter Olympic bobsled run at breakneck speed, hurtling toward Halloween. It seems like only yesterday The Pony was still in middle school, insisting that the gory sheet ghost hanging a block away from his building was the Annual Autumn Ketchup Tablecloth Yard Ornament. The Pony sometimes can't see the forest for the trees. Or the ghost for the tablecloth.

We leave home during the early morning hours, before the sun has risen. Depending on fog and cloud cover, we move half-blind to the garage. It's dark in there, you know. Dark, until I hit the garage door opener mounted just inside the walk-in door, the little thingy that looks like an upright rectangular doorbell button to normal people. That turns on an overhead light that's not too bright. Kind of like the guy who installed it, at select moments.

This morning, The Pony took a bag of trash over to the dumpster. Juno followed him, forsaking a chance for me to chew on her rubbery black nose before leaving for work. As The Pony came back to the sidewalk, to step inside the door I had just opened, Juno gamboled up the steps and ran to a side-porch position for a mini-lovefest. I paused to hug her, keeping my lips firmly together. That's when I heard it.


I stepped into the gloomy two-car vehicle sanctuary. Hick had left for work 40 minutes earlier. There was his empty space next to my T-Hoe. The Pony was gaping at the area just in front of where Hick parks. By the shelves of hoarded Hick-stuff.

"For a minute, I thought that was a ghost!"

I'm sure you can understand his perception. Look at that. I can even see a long nose and two eyes. In truth, that is a pair of Hick's jeans. Yes. Out here in Backroads, it is not uncommon for a man to take off his pants and walk around the porch in his tighty-whities. Just one of the perks of living in the middle of nowhere, where people stuff bodies in septic tanks, and leave unrequested bags of hedgeapples on porches.

Before Hick left for his bowling league this evening, I showed him this picture I made The Pony snap with a flash on his phone camera. "Look at what your son was exposed to this morning in the garage."

"Ha. You mean my pants? They were all smoky from the bonfire. Huh. That looks like a ghost. You should put that on your thing and scare people."

Oh, I don't need Hick's advice on how to scare people. The true horror is the thought of Hick on the loose in his tighty-whities.