Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Val's the Name. Problem-Solving's the Game.

During that six months or so that I'll have between the time I retire at the end of next school year, and Hick retires at Christmas...there are going to be a few changes around here. Shh...don't tell Hick.

I will be starting with the lighting situation. Perhaps I might have shared with you the lamp I used for years that had no switch. Okay. It had a switch. But it didn't have that rough-edged plastic knob attached with which to turn it on and off. What good is a lamp that won't turn on and off? Let me answer for you. NO DARN GOOD AT ALL! So instead of buying me a new lamp, which could not have cost all that much way back then...Hick gave me a pair of needle-nosed pliers. Kind of like that time he gave me a crutch to carry in the back of my car and prop open the back hatch because the hydraulic thingy was on the fritz.

Surely needle-nosed pliers are not marketed as lamp turner-onners, and crutches are not marketed as car-hatch-proppers. Hick came up with these uses all on his own. Because he's a multi-task tool himself. Obviously, he had a needle-nosed plier and a crutch to spare. But getting back to my dark tale of lighting...

I cannot see a thing in my kitchen. I have a light over the kitchen table, which illuminates the dining area at night, when the three big windows surrounding it are bereft of sunlight. I have two recessed lights over the kitchen sink, which allow me to wash all my dishes by hand and actually get them clean, unlike a certain man around the house who tries his hand at it once a year in an attempt to elicit praise 24/7/365. I have lights under my cabinets that allow me to chop onions to disguise my tears of sadness. But the main light on my kitchen ceiling, the one over the cutting block, the one I need to use for reading labels on boxes and bags before I warm things in the oven or heat them in the microwave, is a piece of not-sugar.

The kitchen ceiling light has prongs for three bulbs. All are filled with bulbs. I estimate the total wattage of those three lights at around twenty. Not three twenty-watt bulbs. Nope. Three 6.66-watt bulbs. Without all my other lights providing support, the kitchen is like a basement in a horror movie. Not even the reflection from Frig II can brighten things up. I have complained and complained to Hick. I know that's quite a shocker. But I have. To no avail. "Val. Those are normal watt bulbs for a kitchen." I need to borrow on of those headband and cap visor lights that I bought him to feed the animals in the winter months. Oops! He doesn't feed the lights TO the animals! He uses them so he can SEE to feed the animals. Which is something I can't do in my kitchen. See to feed my animals.

The bedroom has the opposite problem. Hick has some ceiling fan/chandelier kind of light fixture handing from the ceiling at the foot of the bed, right over my trunk. Not that I'm an elephant or anything. I have a trunk. Not even a good one. A flimsy tan trunk, given to me by my parents before college, containing guns according to Hick's boys when they first met me, without a lock on the clasp, and sides so thin a fast-flying June bug could penetrate the perimeter.

This bedroom light could be used to warn boats away from the craggy shore off the coast of Maine. From its position right here in my Missouri bedroom. A doctor could use this light during surgery, so bright it is that one could see a Junior Mint falling into the wound from above. The brilliance is just slightly less than that of the surface of the sun. To add insult to my eye injury, Hick commandeered a wooden-framed long mirror from my grandma's estate auction, and screwed it (much like a red milk crate on the front of the house) to the wall on my side of the bed, just above the fake electric fireplace.

He must have an advanced Ph.D. in Physics, that Hick. Must have researched and written theses and given dissertations on light refraction and reflection that could make Albert Einstein's hair stand on end. Hick's special area of emphasis was surely angle of incidence and angle of reflection. That mirror shoots shards of light into my eyes when I lay in bed like those given off by a supernova. I could do my own LASIK surgery. A freshman with a laser pointer would be no match for the set-up Hick has made to blind me. A bedroom is supposed to be a comfortable refuge from the elements of the day. Not a stark sparkling white landscape the likes of Flo's Progressive Insurance hideaway.

I suppose I could start sleeping in the kitchen, and Hick could slow-cook his food between his butt and the mattress while he slumbers.

Yep. Val's a problem-solver. I wasn't valedictorian for nothing, you know.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

There is the Edge of Redneckness, Then the Abyss, and Finally, the Bedrock That Needs Not See the Light of Day

Just when I thought Thevictorians had reached the hard rock bottom of redneckness, what with that red milk crate screwed to our front wall to receive UPS packages (which is still there, I might add, though never having received even one package in its gullet)...


Yeah. Hick drove it off to work that day, since we had a forecast of snow, and he leaves studded snow tires on it year round. Then he cleverly kept parking it in the garage, where nobody could get to that side of it to take a picture for evidence. I guess he thought I wouldn't notice.

I asked him what's the deal, and Hick says that window just fell down and wouldn't stay up anymore. I think those two wood wedges are new. They only add insult to injury, since I have asked Hick for years to make me some doorstops for school. Doorstops for teachers are like cigarettes to permanent residents of the state pen.

I can't believe that our $1000 Caravan hasn't held up better than that, over these last six years.

You just don't get much for your thousand bucks these days. Except maybe a pair of shoe inserts from The Good Feet Store.

Monday, December 29, 2014

What's WRONG With That Boy?

Okay. Here's the scoop. Though it's not straight from The Pony's mouth. He has little interest in helping people, you know, so he's not going to share the story with you. That falls to Val, the authority on everything.

Genius arrived home from college on Saturday. On Sunday morning, he woke up with a bad headache. His neck was sore. He figured it would go away. Maybe he slept on it wrong. Different pillow. Each day he had the headache. It hurt to turn his neck. At my sister the ex-mayor's wife's Christmas Eve party, my mom said, "Genius is not feeling well, is he?" No. He still had that headache. His neck still hurt. Same on Christmas Day. I told him that we should get him in to see the doctor on Friday. Au contraire. Friday morning, Hick spirited Genius away on a Goodwilling trip spanning more than several counties. I found out later that they were also car-shopping. That's another story.

Remember that I fell ill Christmas Eve, and was on death's door Friday, with a fever of 101.2. I knew that Genius should go to the doctor, but he said he was actually feeling a bit better on Friday. Saturday morning, when I thought we might work him in at Urgent Care, he took off with Hick to buy a car. I dragged myself to Save A Lot and my mom's driveway, finding out how weak I really was, not yet healed from my fevered illness. Hick went into his usual histrionics of some imagined slight (I know, that man is SO unreasonable) and took off around 3:00. I had no idea where he went. I was too weak to care much. I figured he would end up at his auction at 6:00 as usual, so I was off the hook for his supper.

Around 5:00, Genius flopped onto the long couch gingerly, declaring that he felt really, really bad. Which is how it goes, right? They're sickest on the holiday or weekend or whenever no Urgent Care is open. So I asked him if he thought he was sick enough that we needed to go to the ER. He said he thought so.

I was kind of worried at his symptoms. Stiff neck and headache make me think of meningitis. I know he had the meningitis shot (twice, due to our faulty record-keeping) before going away to college. But there is also viral meningitis, though no treatment for it. And Genius had casually mentioned that he and his RA cronies had a little wrestling match/couch cushion royale on Thursday before he came home. This had come up during the week, when he said his knee hurt from wrestling around. He elaborated that he got whacked in the head with a couch cushion as well. I didn't want him to have a skull fracture or leaking spinal fluid. So, even though I was now only on death's front sidewalk, I planned to put on real clothes and haul him to the ER. I called Hick to inform him.

Hick had been hiding out in his creekside cabin. He came back to the house and said he would take Genius to the ER. Which meant he would miss his auction, but that's life when you have a kid who catches couch cushions with his skull. Off they went, only to return after 9:00, not quite satisfied, but optimistic. They had waited quite a while, and been seen by a Physician's Assistant. You'd think at the prices they charge for emergency medicine, you could at least get a real doctor. Or a medical test. But after paying the $200 copay, Genius was looked at for five minutes, declared to have a cervical strain, and given prescriptions for Flexeril and Tramadol. He took them Saturday night, and again Sunday morning.

Sunday afternoon, around 1:30, Genius said his head hurt ten times worse than yesterday. His discharge papers said to come back if his symptoms worsened. So I gave in and took him back to the ER, because he was adamant that Hick not be the one to take him this time, and that he had wanted me to take him Saturday, too, because I would not have let him leave after five minutes and no medical tests.

Genius was actually weeping with pain. When he stood up to walk, he walked sideways. He doesn't think so. He said his head hurt so bad that he was making sure to put each foot down as easily as he could. But he WAS leaning sideways when he walked. He kept blowing his nose on the way there, using my precious stash of Puffls With Lotion. I thought maybe he was coming down with what I had, but he said not at all. It was from the tears. I told him to cry in the ER, maybe they would believe how much it hurt. And he said he was no punk-a$$ b*tch. I swear. The language those young 'uns pick up at college!

We had several adventures at the ER, which I will reveal in coming days, so Joe H. maybe should find some uplifting blogs to read until my continuing series on hospitals is complete. But the short version to complete this informational post is that Genius DID see a real doctor, a really GOOD doctor, who performed blood tests, and subsequently a CAT scan, a lumbar puncture, and an MRI with contrast, due to the elevated results in one of the blood tests. He and the lady doctor who came on duty at shift change were able to rule out meningitis, blood clots in the brain, a slowly leaking aneurism, and infection in the spinal fluid.

They concluded that it is probably viral in nature, and might take a while to get over, and will treat his symptoms with a Percocet and a different muscle relaxer, since Genius said the other drugs were not working for him. His official diagnosis was "viral syndrome." We are to get him a follow-up appointment with his regular doctor this week.

Oh, and he had four shots of morphine while he was there, to finally take away his pain. I felt really, really bad for my Genius. He's my shining star. I hate to see him in pain. Though I will venture that most people on morphine are generally more cheerful than that boy.

Not an experience I would like to repeat. Unless I get some morphine, too.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

There Will Be a Short Delay in Val's Regular Entertainment Schedule While She Sits at the ER With Genius

No comedy today. Just got back from the ER with Genius, where we sat since 2:00. Of course there's a story in it. Even Steven taketh away time, then Even Steven giveth blog fodder.

Don't you worry about Genius. He is still kickin'.

More on Monday.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Val Takes On the Aged, the Young, and the Single Parents

How do you know Val is feeling better? She has the strength to gripe again!

My 101.2 fever broke last night between 11:30 and 2:00. I am weak as a kitten, with a head full of snot, but the aches and chills are gone. I mustered the gumption to venture out, and made a trip to Save A Lot so I could swing by my mom's house with a case of bottled water. Gotta keep the ol' gal hydrated, you know.

It was at Save A Lot that two-thirds of today's post was delivered on a silver platter, all wrapped up with a festive bow. Normally, I don't make The Pony go in with me at Save A Lot. But today, feeling not up to par, a bit foggy-headed and unsteady, I used him for my runner. Let the record show that I told The Pony in the car the items I wanted him to fetch. When he brought a couple to me, I re-emphasized his next aisle and product. It went swimmingly. He is great helper. And a witness with a photographic and phonographic memory if you need verification of what's to follow.

Old people are bees in my bonnet. Not the polite old people who count out correct change, or say "excuse me" if one of us is in the way of a shelf item desired by the other. No, I'm talking about the entitled old people. Like that guy bearing down on me across the front aisle with his Cart of Death to rival that of Al Bundy.

You know, it's not like we were in some tiny city market filled with organic health foods or specialty items. This was the front aisle of Save A Lot. Right behind the registers. A high-traffic area. Plenty wide enough for two carts to pass. But this crotchety fellow did not want to give me my rightful half. He came barreling down the middle. Like Zack Mayo in An Officer and a Gentleman, I had nowhere else to go. I had to pull over, because there was a pallet stacked with soda at the end cap. AND that geezer had the nerve to give me the stinkeye as he passed! I hope irony has a special plan for him.

It was not enough to be schlepping through Save A Lot with a bee buzzing in my bonnet. I also had to deal with a thorn piercing my side. A thorn in the guise of a mom and her two teenage daughters. They entered right after us. So the first few aisle trips were spent basking in the glow of their cheery aura. This mom also had a helper. Two. It's like they were on that show Supermarket Sweep. They all walked along beside the cart, then the mom would shout, "EGGS! GET THE EGGS!" and off one would dash. Then to the other, the mom shouted, "FROOT LOOPS! GET THE FROOT LOOPS!" Even though they're called Circus Os in Save A Lot. I don't know if that whole family was hard of hearing, lived next to an airport runway, or was just generally seekers of attention. I think I have hearing damage, and my head was even clogged while exposed to their decibels. Even Steven needs to exact his toll on the LOUD family.

The cure to the stings and punctures that ailed me today was also sullied. Yes. The fly in my ointment was a teenager who thought he knew how to drive. On the way back from my mom's house, we pulled T-Hoe to a halt at the five-way stop. Granted, a five-way stop is a bit of a circus, but that's how the highway department works here in Backroads. Besides, people who live around these parts know about the five-way stop. The proper thing to do, you see, is watch who takes a turn, then go after everyone who was sitting there before you has gone. By no means should you be rolling to a stop, then gas it without becoming momentarily stationary. But that's what this Fred-Flintstone-headed dude did. Cut right in front of my path, because HE couldn't wait his turn. I wish I would have honked at him. Because his dullard expression as he watched me almost ram him in the side was just about too much to take. Karma really needs to be a b*tch to that guy.

Yep. Val is back in fightin' form. Ready to take on the world. And the universe. Which conspires against her, you know.

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Pony, Who DOES Understand Irony, Has His Hindquarters Nipped By It

Another story in Val's continuing series on irony.

Christmas Eve, we went to my sister the ex-mayor's wife's house for dinner and games. I am sorry to report that Val did not maintain her usual winning record. Oh, well. That kept the angry mob and their flaming torches away. I attribute my lack of success with this virus putting me off my game(s).

I only scored 12 out of 17 in identifying actors and public figures by their mustaches. Darn that Ryan Reynolds and Dr. Phil and Salvador Dali. The best score was 15. In another game, we drew cards and had to give away a dollar scratch-off ticket to various people. This assured that everybody left with at least one of the three tickets we had to bring to the party. My card said, "Give a ticket to a person who was born in an even month." So I passed it off to my niece, with an April birthday. C'mon. You didn't think I'd give it to Hick, did you?

The Pony did not even deliberate before giving away his ticket. "Give a ticket to the smartest person here." You might think that my boy saluted my validictorianship, and gave that ticket to me. But no. You think wrong. The Pony looked around the table, and announced, "Well, since I'm the smartest person here, I'm going to keep my ticket." Remember that. This is what's called foreshadowing.

The last game was called Left Right Center. Perhaps you've played. You need special dice, marked with an L, an R, a C, and a dot. We all started with two tokens and one scratch-off ticket. If you rolled an L or an R, you had to give something to the person to the left or right of you. A C meant you had to put something in the middle of the table. Something that's not coming out. At least if you passed off an item to a person beside you, there was a chance you might get it back, depending on the roll of the dice. A dot on the die meant you got to keep an item.

The Pony was down to one token and one ticket. That meant he got to roll two dice. It came up a dot and a C. One would assume that The Pony put his token in the center of the table, and kept his ticket. You know what happens when we assume.

The Pony shoved his ticket to the pile of tokens in the middle of the table. Oh, the IRONY! There was a tough audience around that table. "Hey! I thought you were the smartest one here!" And "That's not what a smart person would do!" And "I guess you should have given that ticket to someone smarter than you!"

Yes. Irony is a harsh taskmaster.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Much-Needed, But Un-Asked-For, Gift

This Christmas season, Santa brought me a most wonderful gift: the true meaning of irony!

I might have mentioned yesterday how I took my mom to a doctor appointment on Christmas Eve day. Uh huh. And I promised to explain the meaning of the title, "A Lick and a Promise." Because, you know, my blog buddy Sioux would want to know. She's an aficionado of details like that.

After waiting an hour for her 10:00 appointment, and being seen by the nurse for five minutes, and the doctor for three minutes...I took Mom for a frozen custard. She doesn't get out much now, you know. And since I'm at work, we can't have our leisurely excursions like we used to on Bill-Paying Friday. I was not feeling up-to-snuff, but attributed it to the stress of finding out about this surprise appointment on Christmas Eve (did I mention it was on Christmas Eve?) when I really did not have four hours to spare in drive time and wait time for an appointment. On Christmas Eve. When I still had cooking to do, and every single one of the family presents to wrap, and a dinner party at 6:00. So I did not partake of a frozen custard treat. But Mom did.

In fact, Mom enjoyed the not-heaven out of that small vanilla custard cone. Her tongue was lapping so furiously at it that several blobs of frozen custard spattered onto her coat. Not that Mom even noticed. It was good to see her renewed zest for life...and frozen custard.

But that's not the story of The Lick part of yesterday's title. Nope. Not by a long shot. One might ASSUME that a tongue devouring the vanilla custard atop a cone was The Lick part of the title. But you know what happens when we assume.

Let the record show that Val is a good daughter, well on the way to returning to her five-dollar status, who dropped her mother off at the entrance to the hospital/medical office complex. Mom went in with her stylish floral cane bought by Hick, and sat to wait by the elevators until I parked. We snagged an elevator by ourselves. Then Mom signed in (heh, heh, I first wrote "sighned") and sat down with me in a row of three chairs. Away from people. We don't like sick folks and their germs.

When Mom was called back, I accompanied her. Mainly for company. That's the basis of the word ACCOMPANIed, you know. Between the nurse's inspection and the doctor's visit, it happened.

I looked over to my left, to speak to Mom, and caught her LICKING HER FINGERS AND WIPING THE CORNERS OF HER MOUTH, AND HER LIPS, WITH HER FINGERTIPS! The fingertips that had already touched chair arms in the lobby, the sign-in counter, the sign-in clipboard, the sign-in pen, and the chair arms of the waiting room!

"MOM! Stop that! How many times have I told you not to even touch your face until we get back to the car and use the Germ-X in my purse? I tell The Pony the same thing when we go in Walmart, and he plays that cesspool of a driving game while I check out. He listens. And neither of us have been sick all sememster."

Mom acted like I was overreacting. But she stopped. And when we got back to T-Hoe, I squooshed out that Germ-X before I took her for her small vanilla custard cone.

Later that day, Christmas Eve evening...I developed wheezing and a pain in my chest and a hacking cough. This morning it has moved up into my head.

THAT, my friends, is IRONY!

And the true story of The Lick.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Lick and a Promise

Things are a little hectic right now in the Valhousehold. I took my mom to the doctor this morning for a follow-up appointment ON CHRISTMAS EVE, and now I am behind four or five hours. Nothing is wrong with Mom. Nothing new, anyway. Just a regular appointment.

I PROMISE to fill you in on our escapades tomorrow, or as I have time.

The LICK will have to wait.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good finger food buffet and round of games at your sister the ex-mayor's wife's house tonight.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

He Hasn't Been Anywhere Near California. I Swear.

Did I mention that Genius is home? Even if I did, you could easily forget that he's around. I, on the other hand, cannot.

"Hey! I'm trying to do the dishes here. I've been working all afternoon on those two cakes and the pie and potato salad. Now I just want to get all these dishes off the counter."

"I'm only getting a gallon of water for my film."

"And this is the only faucet in the house? You always have to be right under me when I'm trying to do something. You could have used the laundry room sink. Why else do we have it? I never wanted it. But your dad found it along the road and had to put it in when we build the house."

"The other faucets won't fit a gallon jug under them. And you already have hot water. It takes too long to run to get it warm."

"I guarantee you that the laundry room faucet would warm up fast, because I've been running hot water in here, and it's only a ten feet away."

"Actually, I forgot about the laundry room sink. But this is more convenient. Can I use this pan to mix my chemicals?"

"NO! That's my good pan. I use it all the time."

"I have used this pan many a time mixing my chemicals."

"Not while I'm home. Use that blue speckled one in the bottom cabinet. I don't like it much."

"This thing? It won't hold a gallon."

"It will hold way more than a gallon. Where are you going?"

"I thought you were done with the dishwater. I splashed chemicals on my hand and need to wash it off."

"I'm done. Use the water. Whenever you're home, it's like having a toddler who needs to be watched every minute. You've always been like that. Your brother was never that way. He's toddler you don't really care about. You only have to watch him if you tell him to do a specific job, because you know he won't do it right."

"Next year, instead of having a big Christmas, why don't you get a stainless steel sink and new stove? They would look great with New Frig."

"I wanted a stainless steel sink when we built the house, but your dad, who has never done dishes by hand every single night for infinity, took it upon himself to put in that almond monstrosity that's not even big enough to submerge my 9 x 13 Pyrex dish. I'm sure we can outfit the kitchen to your liking for the three weekends a year that you're here. Hey! What's with all the water?"

"I am letting it run while I clean the chemical pan."

"The way you waste water, you'd think we were paying for it instead of getting it from the well."

"I plan to lower the water table by one foot before I leave."

"I'm not sure I want to hear any more of your plans."

Monday, December 22, 2014

Oh, the Possibilities!

Hey! Remember back on Sunday, November 2nd, 2014, when I declared that I was starting a new sideline for my proposed handbasket factory? Val's School For Boys Who Can't Dress Themselves and Don't Really Care About Helping People, I called it. I was wearing black socks, red Crocs, navy blue sweatpants with a white stripe down each leg, and a yellow-and-white striped short-sleeved big shirt when I wrote it.

Okay. So maybe you don't have H-SAM (Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory) like Marilu Henner, or that character Poppy Montgomery plays. But I wrote about that school-for-boys plan. And now, I'm branching out. Branching out as a life coach, available to help geniuses and the other end of the spectrum, guys like Hick, carry out the tasks of daily life. Because they are sadly unprepared. I daresay they wouldn't know how to put on a tree skirt without explicit instructions and modeling.

Let's begins with the malleable Pony. This afternoon, I asked him to light a Creamy Custard and Apple Cinnamon candle. Yeah. Sometimes I don't know whether to smell them or eat them. So first of all, The Pony was discombobulated because I had taken the box of long stick matches off the kitchen counter and put them away in the cabinet. Once he got over that glitch, he took seven or eight tries to scratch that match into flame. Then he let the candle sit flat on the counter while he stuck the match down inside the glass holder to the wick. Of course the flame started licking up toward his thumb and finger. Nothing understands gravity better than a flame, unless it's underwater air bubbles.

Good thing I was watching him like a hawk while I was scrubbing a copper-bottomed pot with ketchup, and putting 19 eggs in a bigger pot to boil. I saw the wick catch, and the match flame licking up the wooden matchstick. "BLOW IT OUT!"

The Pony had already yanked his hand back from the heat. He gave a WHOOSH of a blowout attempt. Right into the candle, which had caught. It went out, and the flame remained, advancing toward his flesh. "BLOW IT OUT!" He finally did.

"I tried! You scared me! I didn't think it was lit, so I was letting it light." He moved to the sink to run the matchstick under water before throwing it in the wastebasket. At least he had learned one lesson. His second attempt at lighting was more successful, since he tilted the candle before sticking in the match.

Next we greet Genius, the college man, home for four weeks. Four weeks of wearing one shirt. Because he went off and left all his shirts in his dorm room.

"Um. I kind of forgot my shirts."

"I'm sure there are shirts hanging in the laundry room that will fit you."

"Yeah. Well. Four weeks is a long time."

"I guess you can go without a shirt."

"I only have this one shirt."

"Okay. I get it. What's cheaper, a whole new wardrobe, or gas money to go back for your shirts?"

"The gas money."

"Didn't you get gas money from the kid you drive home this afternoon?"

"Well yes!"

"And you won $20 on that scratch-off ticket I sent you. So there's your gas money."

"Um. I was thinking of driving back tomorrow morning."


"Could I have...not the whole amount...gas is, make it twenty-five dollars?"

"All right. I hope you can get in your dorm."

"Oh, I can get in!"

So...I've put out the fire on one little genius, and gotten shirts back on the back of the other, and my attention turns to Hick. Hick, sitting in his La-Z-Boy with his feet up, watching home improvement shows while waiting for time to go to the auction.

"You know the soles of your work boots are filled with mud, right? Mud clods and rocks and cedar shavings."

"Huh. They are?"

"Yes. And when you get up, they're going to be in the carpet. You've probably left a trail through the house already."

"I didn't know they were muddy."

Said the man who just came in from the goat pen after a day of constant rain.

Yes. A new business sideline, with a new business card:

Val: Life Coach For the Very Smart and Very Not-Smart.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Pony Plays Hardball

I think we have established that The Pony is a brainiac. He lives in his head. If a brain could exist in a jar without a body, that would be The Pony. As long as he had someone to carry his jar to the back seat of T-Hoe, and type up his stories, and move the mouse for his computer games, he would be fine existing as just a brain. No need to interact with the human race. No need to drive. No need to try and help people. Only a brain, doing what brains do.

On Friday, the day before Christmas break, a half-day of school, The Pony's last class was only 30 minutes long. They had a little party. Not a party where moms bring in cupcakes and cookies and kids play Heads Up Seven Up. That's not allowed these days. Somebody might be allergic to the ingredients. Sugar is poison. And if only seven people can be picked, the rest of the kids are going to suffer a blow to their tender self-esteem. No, the party was an informal bring-your-own treat kind of deal, where The Pony and his cronies sat sedately in their desks, talking quietly, drinking the diet soda or Gatorade that is sold in the machine on premises, or convenience store cups of bootleg storebought beverages purchased during the morning community service excursion of the NHS.

During the festivities, kids started tossing a ball around the room. Apparently, this generation has never watched The Brady Bunch, and does not remember that "Mom always said, 'Don't play ball in the house.'" I guess they would need a literal translation anyway, and assume it was okay unless the teacher always said, "Don't play ball in the classroom."

It's not like they were heaving around a basketball, like those Brady boys. Or even spiraling a football that might hit a stepsister in the nose. Nor were they throwing a baseball with 101.3 mph heat like Cardinals' reliever Carlos Martinez. Nope. The kids were tossing around a yellow foam stress ball, about the size of a normal person's palm. So perhaps the title is misleading, and should be: The Pony Plays Stressball.

As you might guess, The Pony is not a stressball star. Is it not enough that he caught it without falling out of his chair, or giving himself a black eye? Good thing, too. There is no crying in stressball. And there is no protective padding.

Our little brain, The Pony, was only trying to join in. To participate fully, as other members of his class. While it was an upper level honors course of only nine pupils, they were not exactly his people. Meaning they were the smart kids, but also joiners and athletes comfortable with flinging a foam ball  around the room. Unlike The Pony. He attempted a toss to his lab partner, but as with most things physical where The Pony is involved, his throw went awry. Who knew a foam stressball could knock a 44 ounce Styrofoam cup of Mountain Dew off a desk and onto the floor? Probably nobody. But The Pony made believers out of them.

Mountain Dew, people! That stuff is like Au to high school chemistry students. The magical elixir forbidden them on school premises. The Pony might as well have spilled molten gold.

He got some school paper towels to mop it up. You know how that went. School paper towels are just a little bit less absorbent than notebook paper. His teacher helped for a bit. Showed him the technique of dropping the towel and pushing it around with one foot. And told him, "Don't worry. My room is being mopped after school anyway."

The owner of the spilled treasure did not protest. In fact, when The Pony offered her cash for a replacement, she told him it was fine. No problem.

As he cleaned to the best of his ability the mess he had made, he asked, "What did you THINK would happen if you gave ME the ball?"

Indeed. Surely they remember how he broke each elbow, in two separate incidents, running down the hall, and running up the steps.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

It Started Out To Be About Egg Salad

After visiting my mom today, I stopped by Save A Lot to pick up a few things, and spent eighty-three dollars. EIGHTY-THREE DOLLARS! That's two-lane blacktop robbery! All I got were bananas and potatoes and onions and cheese and sour cream and spaghetti sauce and pizza sauce and bacon and sausage biscuits and fish and shrimp and frozen beef-with-broccoli, and a foil baking pan to use as a liner in my onion bin. Oh. And four of the unique 4/$1.00 metal six-ounce bottles of Diet Coke for Hick to collect. Such a shame, that Diet Coke never to cross the refined palate of a Thevictorian.

Speaking of Thevictorians...we all flew our separate ways today. Hick took off to the bank to get some big bills suitable for gift-giving, and to cash a birthday check my mom had sent him. The Pony waited at home to be chauffeured to his bowling league. Genius left College to take another student home to a somewhat nearby town, then return to the homestead for the first time since before Halloween. I took my mom some egg salad that I whipped up this morning. There would have been more, but The Pony and I each had a boiled egg for breakfast. Mom will never know. Is it a bad sign that she asked if it would need mayonnaise? Because I put mayonnaise in it. And mustard. And chopped pickles and onions. And fresh-ground black pepper.

The egg salad was intended to be our lunch. I saved enough. But Hick said he ate "a" slider at the bowling alley. Uh huh. I'm pretty sure nobody eats just one slider. I thought by definition sliders were small sandwiches made to be eaten in plural. I was so busy that my deadline to leave for Mom's house arrived before I had time for lunch, so I grabbed a handful of Chex Mix and hit the road. Our egg salad sits alone on the top shelf of Frig II, its future mate, Nutty Oat Bread, feet away in the corner cabinet.

Around 4:00, that golden hour when Hick becomes restless, as if on cue, stomping around, letting me know that I should be getting supper ready so he won't be late for the auction (a guy took HIS seat a couple weeks ago!)...Hick grabbed himself a snack. Because, you know, he only had "a" slider for lunch.

Hick's snack was Chex Mix and Diet Root Beer. Now one might imagine a snack to be served up in a bowl, Styrofoam, perhaps, as Thevictorians are wont to use, and a can or glass of Diet Root Beer. One might as well imagine Val as a unicorn. This is Hick we're talking about. He sat down on the couch (which we had a spat about this morning, him declaring it a LOVE SEAT, while I declared that was impossible, because THERE IS NO LOVE IN THIS HOUSE), and...where was I? Hick had his Chex Mix in the opaque plastic quart container which once held take-out hot-and-sour soup. And his Diet Root Beer (generic, of course, and not bought by Val, most likely an auction bargain) in the original two-liter bottle. To be swigged from. No glass. No ice. Straight off the kitchen table, not even in Frig II.

Lest one not notice that Hick was having a snack, let the record show that unless one had severe hearing loss and a dead hearing aid battery, it was impossible not to notice Hick having his snack. He dug into that soup container for Chex like he was crushing cornflakes to coat faux fried chicken for the oven. He swilled from that two-liter bottle like a cartoon hillbilly chugging moonshine from an earthenware jug. The open-mouthed Chex chomping was reminiscent of a cow masticating corn on the feed lot.

He was much quieter with the fish an hour later. Which gives me slim hope for those never-ending post-retirement days when we share three meals for eternity.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Ooo, Eee, Ooo Ah Ah, Ting Tang, Walla Walla Bing Bang

Yesterday I went for my twice-a-year checkup. The appointment was for 9:15. The office opens at 9:00. I was called back at 9:45. Seriously. How can you get that far behind so early in the day?

My chatty nurse dragged me to the scale against my will. Then she herded me into the exam room and jammed a thermometer under my tongue while she talked about herself. She does this every time. I know all about her. I could have repeated her story back to her. Not that I mind. What else am I going to do with a thermometer jammed under my tongue? Then she asked about my prescriptions, one of which she had the dosage wrong. Funny how I tell them every time. And SHE'S the one who updates the records.

Just as she was pumping up my blood pressure cuff, Doc walked in with a young man trailing him. "You should have had that done by now."

"Maybe you should do it yourself."

"We're way behind. It should have been done."

"I'm working as fast as I can. And one of her prescriptions was wrong!"

"I can't wait. You're taking too long."

"There's something wrong with this cuff."

"YOU'RE STRESSING ME OUT!" I mouthed. Because it's not good to shout while your blood pressure is being taken. Slowly. What I really wanted to say was, "I hate it when Mommy and Daddy fight." But I wasn't sure they'd get it, and I wasn't in the mood for a psychiatric consult.

Doc rolled his eyes and took off with his little shadow to see another patient. Or put his feet up and drink hot chocolate. Chatty finished pumping, talking again, about how some patients think they're really fighting when they do that. Then she told me my blood pressure, which was surprisingly normal after all that fake conflict, and left the room, leaving the door wide open for passersby to gape at me like some zoo animal.

Doc returned around 10:00. "This is Mark. He's thinking about becoming a doctor."

REEEEEEEEE! Sound of phonograph needle gouging the grooves on some cool 70s album. Jimmy Buffet's Son of a Son of a Sailor, perhaps. Or The Best of Bread.

WTF! Mark IS THINKING ABOUT BECOMING A DOCTOR? So he gets to follow Doc around and be privy (heh, heh, I said privy) to confidential patient medical information? I have a good mind to call HIPAA on him! It's not like he was introduced as a medical student. For all I know it was some nephew or next-door-neighbor of Doc. I'm thinking about becoming a unicorn. How 'bout THAT? Can I glue a horn to my forehead and knock on people's doors and go to their daughters' rooms and prance around? I think not.

Oh, and as Doc was tap tap tapping on his laptop, Mark stepped across the room and SHOOK MY HAND. Without washing up in the sink that was at my right shoulder. I don't think Mark should be spreading cooties and flu virus and possibly Ebola from patient to patient. But that's just me. Maybe Mark is also thinking about being a politician. Or maybe he's just a weirdo.

Tomorrow I am checking the Yellow Pages for a good witch doctor. Can't be any crazier.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Not-Heaven Hath No Fury Like a Front-Porch Package-Basket Spurned

Hey! Guess who got a package today? That's right, all of you Sylvia Brownes out there. It was Val. Val got a package. It was left by UPS on her front porch. You may be familiar with Val's front porch, having seen it only yesterday at this very address.

You know what's funny about this package delivery today? THE PACKAGE WAS LEFT ON THE PORCH! Yeah. After all the trouble my sweet baboo went to in order to provide a safe haven for packages. A haven out of reach of dog teeth.

I suppose the UPS delivery person might have thought we were really eager to get our milk bottle every morning without bending over.

I found it interesting that the driver went to the trouble to wedge that package into the crevice of the side door thingies, to the extent that the package became caved in. As you can plainly see, my porch basket was large enough to hold that delivery. All for naught.

Seriously. Who would ever think to leave a package in that red milk crate? Not Val. Val would think in her private thought-bubble: "What in the not-heaven is that hideous milk crate doing screwed to the front of those people's house?"

I don't know how to break the news to Hick when he gets home from bowling and asks, "Did we get a package in our basket?"

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

There Is the Edge of Redneckness, and Then There Is the Abyss

No longer are Thevictorians living on the edge of redneckness. Nor are we hurtling down the two-lane blacktop at breakneck speed, approaching the precipice overlooking the abyss of redneckness. We are there. Imbedded deep in the hardpan at the bottom of The Valley of the Utmost of Redneckness.

But let’s not put the cart before The Pony.

Yesterday we got home from school and visiting my mom at that time when dusk flips the switch to dark. I turned on the Christmas lights strung around the soffits. It was simple, really. No great big industrial lever to pull down. No two extension cords to connect, like Clark Griswold trying to figure out his National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation display. All I had to do was lift the light switch lever on the wall of the garage as I went out. That’s because we leave our Christmas lights up year round. But WAIT! That’s not what makes us upper tier rednecks. Nor the goats and chickens and guineas and turkey roaming the yard. Nor the dented refrigerator in our kitchen.

I went into the house, and noticed The Pony was missing. Unusual. He always unlocks the kitchen door and goes in before I get there. He unloads his burden of backpack, lunchbox, Kindle Fire, mail, and my school bag. Then I usually see him sitting on the couch, plugging in his phone to set on the windowsill so he can tether his unlimited internet. He had not been ordered by Hick to feed the animals. He was simply missing.

A few minutes later, The Pony burst through the kitchen door. “Well, it looks like somebody’s not getting a Christmas present! Look what I found in the front yard. It’s all there was. It just caught my eye.” He held out a scrap of a shipping label, about the size of an orange slice. The fruit, not the candy.

“What? Where is it from? Who left it, FedEx or UPS?”

“I don’t know. This is all there was. It has your name on it. I’m going out to look some more. Maybe I can find what was in it.”

Off he went. Hick came in.

“The Pony found part of a package label in the yard. I guess the dogs got it.”

“Well, they ate my Case Collector knife truck that time. I don’t know why UPS leaves the packages on the porch.”

“I know. I put that note card out there saying to leave stuff in the garage. That one guy’s afraid of dogs. I think he tossed if from his truck. The lady we used to have hopped out with dog biscuits, and left the packages on top of Juno’s doghouse on the back porch, gave two knocks, and left. And that one year, the new guy left five packages for the people up the road. The one who came out of his garage wiping blood off a knife. I felt bad for having Genius get out to hand him the packages.”

The Pony came back in. “This is what I found. Barely. It’s okay. I didn’t look.” He held out a black plastic case, like those DVDs come in, face down. It was a computer game that he had asked for, the one Genius ordered for him and had sent to our house. The top and bottom corner where the case opens were chewed and ragged.

“Oh, Pony! I’m so sorry. I’ll get you another one.”

“It might be okay. We can open it and look. Here. The disc isn’t marred. But it’s wet. I’ll lay it down on the pool table to dry. I think it will work. And I still have the cardboard with the keycode I’ll need to make it work. We’ll have to explain to Genius why it’s open.”

Hick did not even lay the blame on my sweet, sweet Juno. It is possibly possible that my sweet, sweet Juno chewed up a bubble-wrap envelope and used black plastic to remove plaque buildup from her canine teeth. However…Hick knows that we didn’t even have Juno when his Case Collector knife truck was masticated. He’s treading lightly after the refrigerator dent affair.

This morning, Hick said, “I put a basket by the door for the packages. Surely those idiots can figure out that’s to put the stuff in.”

You know me, ever the Pollyannna. I was sure our problem was solved. I could imagine a wicker basket that Hick had picked up at the auction, right near the door, awaiting my future packages. It was dark then, so I did not run to look out on the porch. I did not think to turn and look back as we went up the driveway in the light of dawn.

“So your dad put a basket by the door for packages?”

“Uh huh. If you want to call it a basket. It’s more of a lunch crate.”


“It’s a milk crate. Faded red.”

“Is it sitting by the door?”

“No. It’s on the wall. Right by that little black mailbox.”

“He nailed it to the wall!”

“No. He SCREWED it to the wall!”

“I hope that didn’t split the cedar siding.”

“Don’t know. But we have a pink milk crate screwed to the front of our house, by the green door.”

Imbedded. In the hardpan. At the bottom of The Valley of the Utmost of Redneckness.

Don't get me started on the Christmas decorations.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I Once Had Bought, But Now I’ll Not / Was Kind, But Now I See

Bright and early Saturday morning, I took off to seek my new refrigerator. We bought The Original Frig at a local business, right in Backroads proper. Hick likes doing business locally, with small businessmen. We found The Original Frig right away, dickered down the price, and had it delivered within four hours. Thevictorians don’t mess around when they set out to make a major purchase.

Our experience was so pleasant that I had no qualms about returning for a new Frig. In fact, I hoped to find one, bargain, pay, and get on the delivery schedule for that afternoon. Easy peasy. But no. The best-laid plans of Val…

The Pony and I got to the furniture store about ten minutes after it opened. We walked in, and I looked to the right, in the direction where we had found our beloved Original Frig six years ago. No Frigs. The Pony spotted them first. Along the back wall, to the left center of the building. Good thing. Because no employees came to help us. They were busy sitting behind the counter in the middle, three of them at least, maybe four.

I don’t know much about the furniture business, other than you don’t have to pay sticker price for the items if you are willing to negotiate. Sometimes you can get pillows thrown in for a couch, or get a second recliner half price if you are a good dickerer. But one thing I would think might be good policy is greeting customers as they come in, and asking if you can help them find something. At best, you’ll make a sale and get a commission. At worst, they’ll tell you to F-off because they’re just looking.

So there I was, ready to buy, and seeking my own Frigs while workers sat and chewed the fat. The Pony and I got over halfway to the back, and I saw the Frigs a little more clearly with my unglassesed eyes. Let the record show that I served out of Frig, I knew Frig, Frig was an appliance of mine…and these, my friends, were no Frigs. They were all white, with top freezers. Not a stainless steel side-by-side in the bunch.

As I turned to leave, telling The Pony, “They don’t have what we’re looking for,” a working woman came to greet us.

“Can I help you?”

“No thanks. I was looking for a stainless steel side-by-side Frigidaire Professional. I don’t see anything similar.”

“We don’t have any of them. We can order one. It will take about 30 days. When did you need it?”

“Today. Sorry. If we can’t find one, I’ll get back to you. Do you have a card?”

Because that’s the polite way of doing business, I think. But you would have thought that I asked that working woman for her left testicle. The contempt on her face was undisguised. Sure, I was wearing comfortable clothes, toting a purse with cracked leather handles, and shod in my run-down New Balance. Criminy! It’s not like I was wearing Crocs!

That alcohol-faced 40-something working woman, in her unseasonal tan and bleached hair the yellow of just-beginning-to-decay corn silk, handed me her business card with a little sneer. I thanked her and put it in my shirt pocket. When we reached T-Hoe, I took it out.

Funny. Her last name was the same as the business name.

I see. Now I have qualms.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Fe Fi Fo Fum...I'm About To Let the Blood of Hick, Who Shoulda Kept Mum

Here is our new Frig. Frig II, we’ll call him.

He’s missing a meat tray slide-out thingy compared to the original Frig, and a little shelf on top of the icemaker. But other than that, he’s serviceable. More so without the help of Hick. Once he got it delivered and plugged in and the ice maker hooked up to the water supply…I was done with him.

Here’s the thing. Hick was a big help when The Original Frig went kaput. He unhooked the ice maker and carted the contents of freezer and refrig to the BARn, where our old, battered refrigerator resides. We looked at Frig II, and I told Hick I was not pleased with the shelf locations, and that I wanted to adjust them before putting stuff in. There was a door shelf that was not at all functional for me, being right under the above shelf, leaving contents out of sight, and in an awkward, low-down position.

The Pony and I took off to do the shopping, since we would have a cool place to put them when we returned. As I pulled into the garage, we saw Hick sitting in his Gator in the front yard. After a bit, he came to the garage and opened T-Hoe’s hatch.

“Not everything goes in. I have some stuff for school, and stuff for my mom.” You would think Hick would wait there until I got out and walked around to tell him what to leave. But no. Hick took that as a sign that he was off the hook, and disappeared. So The Pony and I carried the stuff in as usual.

Inside the homestead, I opened Frig II and saw that Hick had left the shelves the same, and had brought back items from Battered Frig. So I couldn’t put my new stuff away until I took out the old stuff, and had The Pony lower two shelves. And while we were at it, we took out six past-dated items that Hick had moved in. I had told him that when I was ready to deal with the BARn stuff, everything was not going back in.

But that’s not my only gripe with Hick. Shocker, I know. When the movers brought in Frig II, Hick came to the bedroom to break a little news to me.

“The new refrigerator has a ding in the door. You can have 10% off the cost, or they can order a new door and bring it out and put it on.”

“Since I paid so much for that refrigerator, I expect it to be a new refrigerator. I want the new door. I’ll be home over Christmas. They can bring one out and put it on.”


Well. You know how the best-laid plans of Val often go awry. Later in the day, after the movers had left, just before I went to do the shopping, Hick confessed.

“I took the 10% off. It’s just a little dent. Right there. On the edge of the door. You can hardly see it.”

“But I CAN see it. It looks like a snakebite. Two dents. An inch apart.”

“I’ll get the money back.”

“How are you going to do that? Did they give you a check? Something on paper?”

“No. You have to go down to the store, and they’ll give the money back.”

“YOU have to go down to the store. I hope there’s some record of it besides your word against the movers. And I don’t want store credit. I want the money back. Since I bought a damaged refrigerator.”

Seriously. I feel like I sent Hick to sell a cow, and now there’s a beanstalk sprouting in my front yard.