Friday, February 28, 2014

Who Ya Gonna Call? Not My Mom or The Pony!

Last week we had some really, really high winds here in Backroads. In the 60 mph range. We're not used to that. This isn't Kansas, where the wind comes whipping down the plain, strong enough to blow the eyebrows right off your face. Yeah. Oklahoma has nothing on Kansas, the flatland state, home of my dear college crony-in-crime and former roomie, Bean.

I went to Salina one summer, and complained to Bean, since obviously she was the official ambassador of that blow-hard state. "How do you guys live like this? I know Salina is all the way across the state from you, but I kind of noticed this problem the whole way." I stopped just short of commanding her to make that wind cease, or build a windbreak everywhere I thought I might want to stop if I made a return trip across her gusty state. And do you know Bean's response?

"The wind will blow the hair right off your head."

Yes, she was quite poetic, my flatland-state friend. I do not use her phrase any more. Oh, I used to. Until that time I was walking from the parking lot into the building on an exceptionally windy day during my first month of teaching at a new school, and made that comment to a school official. When the kids brought up the state of the atmosphere first hour, I related my morning interaction, and they gasped. Looked at me wide-eyed, like a horse prancing around in a field of writhing rattlesnakes. "You didn't! Did you? He wears a piece!" Well then. So much for being granted tenure.

But we're not here to talk about my workplace faux pas. We're here to talk about my mom's way of repaying those who are kind to her. It's not what you might think. She does not always break out the Chex Mix. Sure, her neighbors leave her bags of hedgeapples, shovel her driveway, deliver her mail, ask her if she needs food or a ride to town. Mom appreciates their kindness. Really.

Last week I called to see how she was getting on. The wind was high, but we still had electricity. Our trees all blew over during the last storm. Apparently, that did not happen in town, as Mom revealed.

"I went to the living room to look out and see if the wind was still blowing. And right at the minute I looked through my picture window, a tree fell over across my neighbor's driveway. That was really a funny feeling."

"The guy who asked if you needed to get out, and sent his wife to bring in your mail?"

"Yes. I don't know how he's going to move that tree."

"Maybe you can walk across the road and stand on your side, and hand him some food over the trunk."

"Oh, I'm not going to do anything to help him!"

"What? He was so nice to you. What if he comes over and asked to borrow a chainsaw?"

"He should know I don't have a chainsaw. I'm not going to help him."

It appears that The Pony has inherited this trait from my side of the family.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Unrequited Love Story

Today was the big day. The day I picked up my mom and took her to get her hands on the Big Daddy she had been craving all week. Okay. I let her ride along while I stopped by my bank and credit union. But in her mind, the sole purpose of this trip was the Big Daddy.

Mom could hardly concentrate on my clever repartee, so focused was she on getting her meathooks on a Big Daddy so she could cram it in her piehole. I'm sure it was not an issue of my repartee being less than clever. Mom was just pursuing that Big Daddy like a heat-seeking missile after a feverish fellow in an equatorial country with a bad sunburn who had just slathered on some BenGay after winning a ghost pepper eating contest.

My financial business completed, Mom began informing me of her order. "I want two sandwiches. A Big Daddy and the chicken one."

"So you don't want a combo? I know how you liked those fries. You don't want fries and a Diet Coke?"

"Oh, I want a Diet Coke."

"Mom. If you get the combo, it's like the same price as a sandwich and soda, but you get the fries, too."

"But the fries always fill me up. Then I won't want the Big Daddy."

"You don't have to eat them today. You always warm them up in your toaster oven."

"Okay. Get me the combo. Wait. Just get me the chicken Big Daddy combo. I really want to try that chicken. It looks so good on the commercial. And then if you get the Big Daddy, I can see what's on the burger."

"Uh. If I get the Big Daddy, I don't plan on eating it in the car. It's not getting unwrapped until I get it home."

"Well, that's all right. You can tell me what's on it."

"Are you sure? Because what if you get snowed in? Then you'll have a spare Big Daddy. You can get a combo, and then another sandwich to save. Who knows when we'll be back over here. It might not be until the end of next month."

"All right. I'll get a combo and a Big Daddy."

By this time we were inching toward the Rally's drive thru.

"I don't see the Big Daddy on the menu, Mom."

"Well, it's on the commercials."

"Do you have a Big Daddy combo?"

"No. We don't have the Big Daddy any more." Mom's face fell. I might have heard a whimper.

"Oh. Well. This will take just a minute. Mom, what do you want?"

"Well...I don't know. Just get me fries. And a Diet Coke."

"Mom. They have a Giant Chicken Sandwich. Do you want that?" Mom was not having it. She was as petulant as a child. Or Val. This apple didn't fall far. "Or they have just a chicken sandwich."

"I wanted the Big Daddy chicken. Just get me a hamburger."

"Mom. They don't have just a hamburger. You have to pick one of these on the menu."

"Oh...I don't know. Just...just...what about the number nine? Oh. It's chicken nuggets. You say they have a chicken sandwich? Get me that."

I ordered Mom a giant chicken sandwich combo, and the number one burger combo for me. We pulled around and waited. And waited. I was starting to think the name "Rally's" was kind of ironic. But since I don't really understand what ironic means, I stopped short of that thought. The girl gave us our Diet Cokes. Then we waited some more.

"I have never waited this long at a Rally's. I guess we took so long to order that they grew old and decrepit. They must be waiting on that chicken to hatch. Hey! We've been here so long...maybe the Big Daddy is back for a new limited time offer!"

"Oh, don't get me tickled!"

"I'm sorry they didn't have your Big Daddy, Mom. The one thing you've been thinking about all week. This trip is as ill-fated as the voyage of the Minnow."

"You know...we could have just gone over to Arby's and sat down and had a Reuben."


You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get an afternoon with your precious THREE-DOLLAR DAUGHTER.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

All Gassed Up With No Place to Go

My son Genius is at it again. Sometimes, I think that boy came by his name in the same manner a septuagenarian is called "Young Lady" by a sleazy furniture salesman, a lanky construction worker is called "Tubby" by his buddies, and the comic book Lotta is called "Little."

Today we had a bit of a scare. I can't have my cell phone on at work. I check it during my plan time, then it goes off for the rest of the day. This morning I toyed with the idea of checking it before going to lunch. That's at 10:53 a.m., you know. But checking my phone would mean draining the battery that has as much stamina as a 98-pound weakling emerging from a decade in an iron lung. Besides, it would take valuable seconds off my 21-minute lunch. So I left Phonie right there on the table of my control center.

I had a minute to spare after watching a lunchmate ingest a bowl of chili with a heap of shredded cheddar stringing from bowl to lip, a pile of celery with two containers of cream cheese for dipping, three fruit cups, and two half-pints of chocolate milk. Low fat. In my spare minute, I turned on Phonie. I had a text from Genius. TWO! This is from the kid who will go two weeks without communicating. Must be something important, I thought. Like he's out of money. But no! Here's a paraphrasing of his message:

"Two gas line breaks. Main campus has been evacuated. I am fine."

He sent it at 10:47. I should know not to ignore my hunches. The second text said: "They are letting us stay in the residence halls for now."

By this time, the bell had rung and my class was be-bopping in from lunch. I went to the cafeteria to ask if anyone had heard any news on this topic. Nope. I was the town crier. I rushed back to mind my charges. We are working on projects, preparing them for the Monday deadline. After drawing numbers for presentation order, and getting them started, I checked to see if any news stations had picked up the story. Yes. Seems that the leak had been located, and students were being allowed back into some buildings. But here's the kicker...

At the height of the forced evacuation, people were warned against using light switches, cell phones, or doing anything that would result in a spark.

So of course the first thing Genius did was get out his cell phone and text me.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I'm Batty, You're Batty, We're All Batty for a Big Daddy!

My mom wants a Big Daddy. She's been longing for one all week.

There's snow in the forecast on Friday. That could interfere with our monthly trip to fork over my house payment. You know, in the town where all the magic happens. Where Mom pirouettes about Arby's, flashing a bit of flesh, informing the masses that she never goes out like this, and she is so embarrassed that she has a hole in the knee of her gray sweatpants.

I called Mom to suggest that maybe we should change our trip to Thursday. "The Pony can't come. He has an academic meet far, far away. I thought you might want to go in Arby's and eat a Reuben. Have you been seeing those commercials? I know how fond you are of Reubens."

"Well...what I would really like is a Big Daddy! I was going to ask you if we could pick one up for me when you let me ride along. All week I've been seeing the Big Daddy on TV. Piled high with all kinds of stuff. And chicken, too! They're on the Rally's commercial, and it just really looks good to me."

It's the least I can do, right? What if the snow comes Friday, and Mom can't get out of her driveway for ten days? At least she can live off the fat from her Big Daddy.

Today Mom went to pick up her recently-widowed sister-in-law from the nursing home, to take her to visit an old friend in another nursing home. They were going to do that last week, and also view an annual art show at the second nursing home, but signs were taped to the door warning of "stomach flu." The outing was tabled until that facility could convalesce its home back to a good bill of health. It just happens to be located in the bill-paying town.

I certainly hope Mom did not grab a Big Daddy without my supervision.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Living On Your Own is Really Kind of an Eye-Opener

Genius called me from college last night, wanting to know where Walmart hides the Vicks. You'd think a Genius who can build a solar car would be able to find a small blue box containing a jar of topical ointment.

"I can't find the Vicks anywhere. The pharmacy is closed. There's nobody to ask for help."

"Well, it IS 9:00 on a Sunday night. Have you looked in the cough medicine aisle?" You must never ASSUME when dealing with a late-stage teenager.

"I'm IN the cough medicine aisle. There's no Vicks. I even went on the other side of the aisle, and found the Vicks humidifiers and stuff. But there's no Vicks."

"Go to the check out and ask the checker. They'll know."

"I think I have pneumonia. Tomorrow I'm going to Student Health to find out."

"That's good. But it doesn't help you tonight. You ARE looking for a box, right? Vicks is in a jar, but in comes in a dark blue box."

"WAIT! They're all out of Vicks. But here's Equate Vaporizing Rub! And it's only half as much as Vicks. This will work just fine."

"Let me know what you find out at Student Health."

"Okay. coughcoughhackhackHACK. Bye."

This morning I got a text. "I don't have pneumonia. Probably not going to die. I got an antibiotic and cough medicine. Should feel better within the week."

Let's hope so. Let's hope he can read the directions on the medicines. His father thinks cough medicine must be taken every four hours until it's an antibiotic. Then he wonders why he sleeps all the time. "Well, I guess the doc wanted me to sleep. That's why he gave me the cough medicine."

And Hick is perfectly capable of building a solar car, too.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Baking is Elemental

A funny thing happened the other day with my oven. Not funny ha, ha. Funny peculiar. I was not laughing. It was not even one of those times when you don't know whether to laugh or cry. I was certainly not yucking it up, nor was I weeping. It brought a sigh to my lungs. A heavy sigh, the kind that might gush out of Paul Bunyan's chest and lay down 150 square miles of forest like the supersonic rush of gases that shot out of the north side of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980. I'm sure you can guess the precipitating factor in my sigh, just as you can guess the etiology of the Mount St. Helens gust.

After telling me we needed a whole new oven, then pricing them, Hick changed his tune faster than a triathlete changing shoes between cycling and running. He investigated that element again with the help of The Pony. An act which was evident when I went to warm up supper one evening. The preheated one-element oven was in disarray. Two racks, people. Two racks. Yet Hick had put them back all asunder. One has a little prop-up thingy on the bottom, and the other is a flat rack. He had them reversed, and on the wrong ledges. Of course I couldn't move them while they were hot. What do you think I am, some kind of champion at those puzzles where you slide segments all willy-nilly back and forth, until you get them into the right position? I am a champion of many things, but spatial reasoning is not one of them. It took me a good five minutes to set things right after cooling.

Last weekend, Hick browbeat me into a rendezvous with my BFF Google, for the purpose of procuring a new oven element. Never mind that it had been out of commission since November. That part had to be ordered RIGHT THAT MOMENT. When I refused to hand over all my financial information to that thuggy website through GoDaddy, Hick hopped in the one vehicle he has with four good tires and sped 20 miles to Lowe's. His BFF. That's when he gave me a new website, vouched for by Lowe's, so I ordered. That part was here by Tuesday. 

Hick could not help himself. When a man discovers a new element on his front porch, nothing will keep him from handling, unwrapping, stroking, admiring and inserting that element into whatever slot allows it access. Hick did not wait until the weekend to fiddle about with my new bottom element. Thursday evening, he hollered down into my dark basement lair, "Your oven is fixed!"

Surely you don't think I ran upstairs to try it out. M-O-O-N. That spells, "I was in no hurry to hoist myself back onto the merry-go-round of warming up things in the oven and then washing the dishes by hand." The Pony was gone Friday night, so Hick brought home Chinese. Saturday was bowling league at noon, and I whipped up some grilled pepper jack sandwiches on nutty oat bread for supper. So today at noon, I went to fire up my new old oven for the first time. I set it on 450 to preheat for some frozen potato skins that Hick wanted for watching some kind of NASCAR event. Heh, heh. You didn't really think I was cooking, did you?

Let me say this about that. The new bottom element is definitely working. I knew that, because I smelled a charred Cheerio. The same one that fell out of my very first batch of World Famous Chex Mix back in November. The one that a normal person might have removed when he had his head inside my oven two times while inspecting the element, a third time while measuring my element, a fourth time while taking out the old element, and a fifth time while putting in the new element.

Oh, and when I opened up the door to slide in the pan of potato skins for warming, I saw that once again, Hick had put the racks in wrong. I could not pry out those 450-degree metal branding irons and set them on the kitchen floor while finagling one or the other into place. Now I cannot even imagine their previous configuration. I'm going to have to get out the roasting pan and imagine it full of Chex and then get out my two 9x11s and put them on the lower rack, and see how they slide in and out every 15 minutes for two hours. Okay, I can probably figure it out after one slide-out. I'm kind of a genius like that.

So...I asked Hick why he didn't take out that darned Cheerio, and he said, "I was going to, but then I forgot."

Five times.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Val's Subconscious Helps Build Strong Stories One Way

The human body has 206 bones.

This includes the tiny inner-ear bones children of my generation had to memorize in elementary school. The phalanges, which represent both the finger and the toe bones, because, I suppose, the bone-namers were fresh out of bone names by the time they got to the toes. And the patella, which sometimes gets all out of joint and ends up laying alongside the knee in slack-ligamented people, a sight which makes me slightly nauseous.

It does not include the funny bone, which is not a bone at all, but the ulnar nerve, which runs along the medial epicondyle of the humerus, and is most often pinched between the metal arms of two old-fashioned webbed lawn chairs when you're sitting too close to somebody and playing the Lucy/Ethel theater-seat armrest supremacy game. Neither does it include the "tibula," which is not a bone at all, but a malapropism suitable for a Norm Crosby routine, by people who do not understand the lower-leg anatomy of the tibia and fibula. And it most certainly does not include the "wrenched ankle," which is totally made up for the benefit of Hasbro, which has contributed to the crushed dreams of countless baby boomers who planned on a career as a surgeon after winning one too many games of Operation.

I share this anatomical information with you not because I simply live to enlighten my blog readers for the love of all that is sciency, nor because there will be a quiz tomorrow, nor because I am a braggart who likes to show off my valedictorianesque knowledge. Okay. There may be a little truth in that last one. But the real reason I wanted you to know that the human body has 206 bones is because...


Now, anyway. I say that not to lord it over all of you 206-boned folks, nor to make you covet my extra bone. It does not make me a morphological freak. I am a woman, not a 207-boned animal! You don't even have to look away. I'm not really all that hideous.

Okay. My extra bone that I just received this morning is not directly attached to my skeletal frame. It's a figurative bone. Not a literal bone. My selfless subconscious tossed me a bone this morning. Upon awaking, I had the kernel of a clever story zipping around in my skull like an overly-active yet not-too-bright light-brown mutt named Susie crashing into garage walls with an opaque plastic Cheese Balls tub stuck on her head.

My story is still in skeletal form. I dashed out some notes in one of my little notebooks for later elaboration. I shan't share it here. It is, how you say...not quite suited for polite company, due to a major plot point revolving around a gag name. I'm sure I can find a market for such a story somewhere.

Not everybody who likes to read is a spinster on a park bench wearing Ruth Buzzi/Gladys Ormphby orthopedic shoes and a hairnet, with a tightly-clutched pocketbook to ward off inappropriateness.

I'm having fun with it, anyway, this new bone of mine.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Hick is No Pony

Just in case there's any doubt, I would like to make sure that my loving, if incompetent-in-oh-so-many-ways, husband knows that he cannot replace The Pony.

The Pony is spending the night with his grandma. That means Hick is on Val duty. Not really. I know better. No sooner would I ask Hick to bring my sweatshirt from upstairs than I would ask sweet, sweet Juno to put her nose in my mouth. I shudder at that memory, and at the thought of how Hick might carry my sweatshirt. I can guarantee you that he would not come dangling it between thumb and forefinger. What scares me is what he might be dangling it from...

Tonight I made two trips down and up the basement stairs. My lair is actually in kind of an inconvenient place. I made sure to grab my own sweatshirt. So sure was I that I had gathered all my evening accoutrements that I virtually sprung my shoulder patting myself on the back. Hick had picked up Chinese food for supper, and was planning on rearing back in his La-Z-Boy to spend some quality time in Mayberry with Sheriff Andy, Deputy Barney, and Aint Bee. I chose to retire to my dark basement lair and the glow of New Delly's monitor.

There I was, supper and a bubba cup of ice water on my left, a 44 oz. Diet Coke on the right, and a toasty space heater at my feet. Who could ask for anything more? Val. That's who. No sooner had I sat down than I remembered my forgotten eggroll. I could almost hear it whimpering from the top of my range which now smugly concealed TWO working oven elements. I did not want to climb those stairs again. But I really wanted that eggroll.

"Hey! Where are you?"

"In the kitchen, making my plate."

"I forgot my eggroll. Could you drop it down?" Let the record show that only five minutes earlier, I had offered to fetch a soda from the basement mini fridge and set it on the highest step I could reach, all to save Hick a trek to the basement. Not being one to listen before acting, Hick descended to my depths anyway, while telling me about our newest calamity, just on the heels of the flat tire on his Pacifica Thursday morning...the missing shingles from our roof last night.

"I'll get it."

I stood at the bottom of the basement steps, hands outstretched, waiting for Hick to appear at the wooden railing above and drop my eggroll. There he was. He clomped into view in that special gait of his, like a toddler leaning forward, unable to stop, while clomping along as if he has no feet on the bottom of his ankles. What's that? Hick held an item in each hand. Both white. Did he bring both eggrolls?

"Are you ready?"

"Wait! Which hand--"

Before I could get out the rest of my question, an eggroll shot past my cupped palms like a slider hurled by Bob Gibson in his heyday. It nearly left an abrasion on my right inner elbow from the heat as it shot by. My eggroll crashed on the next-to next-to-bottom step. I stood there in disbelief like Willie Horton in Game 1 of the 1968 World Series.

"What the not-heaven...I didn't even know which hand you had the eggroll in! You threw it before you finished asking if I was ready! I didn't see it coming!" Then I saw that Hick was clutching a paper towel in his left hand. Wadded in the same size and shape of the waxed paper bag that held my broken eggroll.

"You always complain." He stomp-clomped back to the kitchen. There's no sense in arguing with an eggroll crusher. What I wanted to tell him was:

"I send The Pony. I know The Pony. The Pony is a helpmate of mine. Hick, you're no Pony."

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Backroads Hometown Gazette: Dead of Winter Edition

The Backroads Hometown Gazette
Published by Val Thevictorian any time the mood strikes her.



A local Backwoods woman soiled her pants yesterday. She did not notice the filth caked upon her slacks until 30 minutes after she had arrived home.

Refreshed by a brief rest in her husband's La-Z-Boy to recharge her batteries, Mrs. Val Thevictorian went to slingshot herself out of that comfy catapult, and felt something amiss. Something she could not quite put her finger on. Then she did. Put her finger on it, that is. The left shin area of her navy blue slacks was smeared with a swath of chunky tan mud, dried to the consistency of a fresh churro or a mud dauber nest.

"Where in the world did THAT come from?" Mrs. Thevictorian asked rhetorically. Her husband, not understanding the nuances of rhetoric, grunted as if he had a clue. "I declare! I certainly hope I did not have that on my pants all day! My principal showed up for my teacher observation this morning. What if I was gallivanting around the classroom with this...this...stain upon my shinbone? Nobody said anything to me about it. I certainly hope I was not the laughingstock of the lunch table after I left early to use the facilities. What if they thought it was...poo? And that I was leaving to clean myself up? Oh, this is tragic. What if somebody spouts out a name like Vally the Poo! I shall never live it down. I might as well tender my resignation forthwith. Kids, and colleagues in the cafeteria, can be so cruel. Woe is me!"

Mrs. Thevictorian then cut her eyes to this reporter's recording device, and asked, "Is that good? Are we done now?" Such a flair for the dramatic was exhibited that readers should keep an eye peeled for future performances of our local Meryl Streep at the community college little theater.



Mr. Hick Thevictorian found himself catapulted into the headlines yesterday when he discovered a new element on his front porch. Discovering a new element was the farthest thing from Mr. Thevictorian's mind when he awakened that fateful morning. All he expected was to start his day with a sausage egg biscuit and banana, commute to work, apply his nose to the grindstone, commute home, have some quality time with his goats and chickens, enjoy an evening repast of Auction Meat prepared less-than-appetizingly by his harpy fishwife, and tumble into bed, one day closer to his demise.

Quality goat-time spent, Mr. Thevictorian entered by the back door. "I was just coming from the goat pen, and I saw a box on our front porch. I guess I'll go see what it is." He clomped past his insignificant other, clods of mud falling from sole to floor. He returned with a large flat box. Mr. Thevictorian knew better than to shove it in Mrs. Thevictorian's face and expect her to take it off his hands. They'd had a discussion of that matter only the day before. (check out the link to the Police Report)

"Your element is here!"

"Well, put it somewhere! You can't put it in tonight. I'm cookin' right now, and it's too hot to touch. Wait until the weekend."

Neighbors heard the discussion and called the local news. Mr. Thevictorian was on the 6:00 and 10:00 p.m. broadcasts. He is currently waiting for a delicious meal to be warmed in the old oven by his ancient wife and her new element.



Longtime Backroads resident Tillie Tendollardaughermom will be joining the talk show circuit this spring to promote a new health fad. Forever kicking herself in her own "bottom" for missing the boat when the Dannon Yogurt bandwagon sailed, Tillie vowed to share her magical edible with the masses, come ice or high snowbanks. You can catch Tillie's first interview on the Channel 11 News at 4:00 a.m. Sunday.

Tillie promotes Walmart coleslaw, and in return receives one free pint per week. Says Tillie: "Yum, yum, get ya some!" She is looking forward to her tour. Her best gray sweatpants with the stitched-up hole in the knee have already been packed and placed in the back seat of her Blazer. Tillie will be heading for the city in the early morning hours on Saturday. As long as she can get her car out of the driveway.



A hopeful Backroads Pony is counting the days until he finds out if he made the cut for a summer scholar program. In order to prepare, he has been simulating situations he might encounter there. Sunday evening, his mother called to him concerning supper: "Pony! Are you eating baked rotini with us?"

The Pony galloped to the kitchen and stamped his hooves with anticipation. He headed off to his feeding area with a helping that would make Takeru Kobayashi feel bloated. As he pranced away from the stove, The Pony was heard to exclaim, "I might as well start getting used to eating food I don't like."

His mother, chief oven-warmer and microwave-heater, could not be reached for comment.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

If It Weren't For Bad Ideas He'd Have No Ideas At All

Oh, dear. Hick has a new project in development. Of course I am quite positive this Hick-rigged device will result in my incineration. But let's not put the cart before the horse...

We have a beagle named Tank who is getting on in years. He's 49 by the canine calendar. No longer a svelte rabbit-runner, the breakneck flying leaps off the porch have taken their toll on his joints. He whimpers every time he gets up to walk, and when the other dogs bump him or lash him with their waggers. Hick thinks Tank has arthritis, and doesn't like to hear him in pain. Here's a picture of Tank when he was but a pup. A pup making deals with the devil:

Let's remember we're talking about Hick, here. Does Hick want to take Tank to the vet to get some doggy arthritis medicine? We know it exists, because Hick's old-man friend used to take the pills prescribed for his dog. But no, Hick is not interested in getting painkillers for Tank. He has said several times this winter, "Well, I hate to do it, but I think I'm going to have to take Tank and have him put down."


"What? He's a dog. Dogs hurt. They get a thorn in the foot, they limp. They get in fights, they have cuts to heal. They tangle with a porcupine, they have needle ouchies. You don't put a dog down just because you think he's in pain. He gets around. He lays in the sun. He follows your Gator down to the cabin. You think Tank would rather be DEAD than ache when he moves?"

"Well, I guess you have a point. But I could never shoot him. I'd have to have Buddy up the road do it for me."

"You're not going to shoot Tank."

"No. I'd pay to have him put down."

"He's not that bad! Maybe he's just a whiner. He still eats. He gets off the porch. He runs around with the other dogs. Just slower."

Now that we've had a warm snap, Tank has stopped his whining. In fact, this morning at 2:30 a.m., he felt fine enough to stand right under our bedroom window and bay at all manner of imagined intruders and woodland fauna. He's acting like his old self again. Guess that "putting down" business was a bit premature.

Tonight Hick came in from looking for The Egg (which is quite elusive, it seems, having had no hen fruit for a month, then 20 discovered in a secret stash Monday, and now nothing again) and sat down to reveal his new project while I washed dishes.

"We have a heater that I took out of that old water bed. I think I'm going to sandwich it between two pieces of OSB board, and make a heating pad to put in Tank's dog house."

"Uh. No. No way am I going to have one of your contraptions on the other side of my bedroom wall, on the wooden porch of our wooden house, for you to incinerate me as I sleep. I won't even leave a lamp on all night. Why would I want a waterbed heater between two boards ready to combust the minute my eyes are closed?" That's not just electricity-ignorant Val talkin'. Genius called tonight, and I told him the plan, and he said, "That's a TERRIBLE idea!" We're sending him to college to be an electrical engineer, you know.

Right now that proposed water-bed-heater-wooden-pad plan has been tabled. Hick thought for a slim moment that he would just put a regular heating pad in Tank's dog house. "Nah. He would probably eat it."

One thing is certain. I am not going to complain to Hick when my knees are aching.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Spring Thaw Has Dried Up My Creativity

Here sits Val, uninspired, fresh off the edits of her most recent, probably last, and hopefully not cut future story publication. Did you follow that? Surely one so succinct as Val will not have any problem getting her next story in print and out to the masses.

It's a tale of ne'er-do-wellism, ripped from the annals (heh, heh, you know what THAT sounds like) of grammar school disciplinary files. Yes, it's the story of a recalcitrant Pony, a true system-bucking bronc, the year before the Pony Whisperer became his teacher.

I must say, reading that epic story again brought a slight curvature to the corners of my mouth. At least I can amuse myself. Meanwhile, here I sit, all keyboarded up, with no thing to write. Becalmed on a glassy sea of humdrumity.

One of these days, I might even amuse my shrinking readership again. Better call up Mom and go for a ride. Or ask what's in her mailbox. Or sneak out there at night and hose down her driveway so she can't get her 4WD lemon out of the garage. Or check on her slaw status. Hick needs to get off his duffus and do something outrageous or endearing or mechanically incorrect. The Pony cannot be expected to shoulder the entire burden of Val's sharp-fingered commentary.

I am not going to tell him how the "horse latitudes" got their name.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Sincerest Form of Flattery

Sometimes, after a hard day at work, with nothing to write about, and itching to get his over with so you can watch the season premiere of Worst Cooks in America on The Food you ever find yourself leaning back in the office chair of your dark basement lair, soaking up warmth from your under-desk space heater, a 24 oz. middle-of-the-week Diet Coke at your right hand, illuminated only by the monitor of your New Delly, balancing an open mini blue plastic jar of Vicks VapoRub on your nose?

Didn't think so.

But just in case, if you do, breathe deeply, my friends. Carpe Diem. Seize the menthol. Grab all the gusto of clear sinuses. Inhale those cooling fumes. And you, too, shall be able to emulate Seinfeld, the show about nothing, and write your very own blog about nothing.

Now I'm off to grab a bowl of nuts and a glass of grape juice and persuade The Pony to shove on over so I can sit on the end of our new couch. I can't imagine anything going wrong with this perfect plan.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Butcher and the Candlestick Maker Get More Respect

Thwarted at every turn! Val could not hang out her shingle as a culinary artist even if she possessed the requisite skills. Like a polo champion mounted on a horse-donkey, a NASCAR driver behind the wheel of a Rascal, a diver poised over a teacup...Val is beset with adversity. Were it not for the lack of a lower heating element, Val's proverbial goose would be cooked.

Perhaps I've let it slip that my oven has not been firing on all cylinders since at least November. I noticed it then, because when I made my first batch of world-famous Chex Mix, a Cheerio fell out of the pan. Normally, I would snag that sucker with a wooden spoon and whisk it out of char's way. But I was preoccupied that day, and left it until the two-hour Chex-tending cycle was done, fully expecting to see a tiny charcoal donut awaiting disposal. I'm still waiting.

That Cheerio is as well-preserved as a five-year-old bag of McDonald's french fries. As pristine as the day it poured out of the box. I left it there, you see, as a test. To see if it would burn each time I used my oven. It did not. I complained to brought it to the attention of Hick. "There's an element in this oven that won't light on one side." Perhaps I am a bit of a Grinch. "The bottom side does not seem to be working. Go ahead. Touch it. Even though I'm cooking at 425, that element is not on." Huh. Neither Hick nor Genius would lay a finger on it. You'd think they were professional science teachers, all knowledgeable about conduction and convection and radiation.

My problem has remained. I can't crisp a pizza, can't get my biscuits to brown on the bottom. Everything must cook on the top rack, where the surface blackens, the middle barely surpasses lukewarm, and the lower portion sometimes remains frozen. C'mon. You didn't think I really cooked, did you? To solve this issue, I have taken to setting my over 25 to 50 degrees higher than recommended. Mmm...makes you want to drop in for dinner, huh?

Last weekend, Hick told me he checked my lower element with a gadget. According to The Pony, it was a multi-meter that measures ohms. He didn't help Hick then. All we have is Hick's word. Hick said that my whole oven was bad, because his meter said that the element was working. Which meant something more serious was amiss. That's Hick's story, and he's stickin' to it. I knew my whole oven wasn't bad. After all, it has one perfectly good upper element that fires up red and burns the tops of most edibles that need warming. And all four burners still work. So I was not necessarily on board with Hick's last-ditch solution of buying a new range. Hick even went so far as to drop by the furniture store and Lowe's to check them out.

Yesterday Hick told me all I needed was a bottom bake element. Uh huh. Seems he had The Pony help him check the oven again. And lo and behold, the element was NOT working. According to The Pony, Hick said Genius must have used that multi-meter, and set it on amps instead of volts, which Hick did not notice. My condolences to his employer, who pays him twice my salary to do this sort of thing all the live-long day. Hick's story was that he couldn't really get into the oven to check it right, so he needed The Pony's help. I reminded him that he used THAT story to explain why he hadn't yet found the leak sprung by the big triangle tub in the master bathroom. Now he says the tub issue is on hold because he can't SEE what he's trying to inspect inside his built-in tub cabinet with removable doors. He really needs to keep a chart of what stories he gives me for specific appliance repair status.

Anyhoo...Hick gave me a website and part number to order an element that looks nothing like my old one. That website was a ne'er-do-well in a back alley with pantyhose over his face waiting to club me on the noggin with a lead pipe, according to Firefox. So I refused to feed it my credit information. Hick went to Lowe's and asked them to order the part shipped to the store, since they are a Whirlpool dealer. They declined, but gave him a website for me to use which was secure.

We'll see if this plan works. Val does not need "half-baked" associated with her persona.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Investigative Bloggerism

Val is no McGruff. But she is as tenacious as a terrier after a rat. In fact, Val likes nothing better than to pursue vermin of the two-legged, four-tired, mailbox variety.

This morning I braved the icy gravel to head to town and deliver my mom's valentine, which work and the weather prevented me from doing yesterday. Lookie here:

That's not water. That's ice. And you'll have to imagine me coming the other way, because I took these on the way home. It was just too dangerous to try snapping phone pics while careening out-of-control down an icy hill.

So...I got down to the county road, which was in considerably better shape, being blacktop, and I saw a curious sight. It was a car at our mailbox row, on the wrong side of the road, the driver rummaging around in a furtive manner. Being Val, I immediately limbered up right there in the driver's seat of T-Hoe, and began jumping to conclusions. My razor-sharp intellect dashed willy-nilly through my brain library, pulling out long narrow card catalog drawers, refining my suppositions as to why this car seemed out of place.

The car did not come out of our gravel road. It could not have gotten into that position at the mailbox row without considerable adjustment. There were no tracks in the road to suggest such a maneuver.

I have never seen this car up in our enclave.

The car was not dirty. No mud spatter. No road-salt spray.

The driver reached out the driver's window, then toward the passenger seat. I could not see well. The windows were slightly tinted. It looked like the driver was putting the mail inside something. Perhaps wrapping it in a jacket. Driver did this at least three times. And twice Driver appeared to lean over and look at me out the passenger window. I was just sitting there with my T-Hoe running, waiting for that car to pull away, to either go on up the blacktop road, or back up and turn and come up in my frozen gravel wonderland. I could have squeezed out onto the county road, but it was easier without that car in that position. I had my 4WD-high on, and it's hard to make a sharp turn.

I tried to pacify my vivid imagination. This was not the mailman. The mailman, even the substitute drivers, come from the other direction. That's how the route runs. Perhaps it was the free paper delivery person. Driver might have been folding a free paper and stuffing it in a plastic sleeve before jamming it into the wooden compartments of our mailbox row. Yeah. Surely that was the explanation. Darn it. Now I was going to get behind that frequent-stopper for two miles.

Just then, the car took off. I pulled out in a wide right turn and headed the same direction, towards town. Well, didn't that just beat all! The car did not pull over at the next mailbox. Nor the next. In fact, the car took off at a speedy clip. I could not even see the license plate, which was white with dark numbers, because it was in one of those tinted cover things.

The situation was getting curiouser and curiouser. It was like that car was trying to outrun me. I don't think so. I drive this road every day. I am aware of the nuances of the hills and gullies, curves and drop-offs. Detective Val tailed that car out to the lettered county road. Wow! That vehicle was moving. I put pedal to the metal. Perhaps I could discern that little white decal on the back window. Driver did not make it easy. I swear I was pushing 70 as we flew past the prison.

Aha! Driver chose my regular route past the bowling alley. At ten mph over the speed limit. I followed through the first roundabout. On the second, Driver made a break for the highway, heading south. And I got a glimpse. Driver was a woman with frosted, shoulder-length hair, wearing a neon green jacket. Good to know.

Something is fishy in Backroads. If I read in the paper that more mailbox thefts have occurred, I will have a description of the vehicle. It's not my mail I'm worried about this morning. It was way too early for today's mail, and I already picked up yesterday's.

I'll be darned if I allow a crime to go unreported on my watch.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Slip Slidin' the Day

The upper atmosphere tried to give me my 19th snow day this morning. The effort was lackluster. After driving through no-woman's-land at temps in the upper 20s, The Pony and I arrived at school to find that a quick-moving heat wave had shot us into the low 40s by my 10:53 lunch time.

Oh, the skies opened and rain poured, but even though the radar shaded our location in pink, our precipitation remained liquid. Funny thing about water flowing across the land that has been in single digits every night for a week. It tends to get colder and colder until it, too, freezes. By 1:30, temperatures dipped into the 30s. A couple of local schools waved the white flag of cowardice, and declared early dismissal.

Our school simply announced that a bus would not run on a specific gravel road. What's that? We, too, were puzzled. High water, perhaps? Kids had to call parents to come fetch them at regular dismissal time. A game was scheduled nearby tonight, but the big speaker in the ceiling announced between classes that cheerleaders would not be attending. "Huh," I told the librarian. "Are cheerleader lives more valuable than player lives?"

The precipitation had ended by 2:00. It was that darned black ice warning in a neighboring county that had me concerned. After school, I told The Pony, "We're leaving in 15 minutes. Don't run off ahead of me. I might need to hold onto your shoulder to go down that blacktop slope to the car. There's a black ice warning."

"Oh. There was black ice this morning. I saw it when I went in. Good thing you didn't step on any of it."

"You might have told me."

"I thought you'd see it for yourself." That's my boy. The one who doesn't really have any interest in helping people. In fact, he trotted ahead to the car. "I saw the black ice over there, under where that white car is parked now. Nothing here." He jumped into T-Hoe and slammed the door. The door with raindrops now frozen to the window.

The road looked mostly clear. In some spots it looked wet. Yesterday the county laid down those salty lines on the county roads. Some were still slightly visible, despite the morning deluge. We were fine until we got to the very last section by our mailbox.

"That looks like solid ice. Be careful when you get out." The Pony scrambled out to grab the mail. He pranced gingerly back to T-Hoe.

"You would be right. That's solid ice!"

The gravel road was also a solid sheet. Who would think that gravel would be slicker than blacktop? Not me. I've never seen it like this. I guess all that moisture couldn't sink in, and what had melted in from the snow yesterday rose to the top as it re-froze. I fishtailed around a flat curve, even with my 4WD-high scrabbling to keep me rooted to the non-pavement. At the garage, I had to inch forward, the slippage on the concrete slab beside it was so pronounced.

Once safely inside, I called Mom. She had been thinking of going to town, what with her new-found freedom of a car that can make it from driveway to road. I had cautioned her this morning to watch the weather. That it looked like we were getting rain, but that the temperatures were going to drop once the storm moved on.

"Hi, Mom. Did you get out today?"

"Yes. I ran over to Aldi's. I was planning to go in Walmart, too, but it was so cold when I got to Aldi's that I just came back home."

"When did you go?"

"Oh, around 1:30."

"WHAT? That was the worst part of the day! Black ice! Didn't you know the school in that town let out at 2:00 because of black ice? I swear. I bet you didn't even have your 4WD on."

"No, I didn't have it on. The roads weren't slick. And I had watched the weather, and they said the precipitation moved out. It was warm when I left here. I didn't even need my coat, but I threw it in the car anyway because I always do, just in case. Now that you mention it, when I came back and stopped at my mailbox, it was frozen shut."

"You know, Mom, you are that lady who would go out for a little drive during the eye of a hurricane."

"Oh, it was fine. The roads weren't even wet."

"Yeah, I'm sure a great big school district like that lets out an hour early on a whim. I'm glad you made it back okay."

"It's still light. I was thinking about running back to town to Walmart."

"NO! It's 25 degrees. Stay home."

How ya gonna keep her, there in the house, after she's left the driveway? Fools, drunks, children, and my mom. Protected species.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Ten-Dollar Daughter is Not Worthy

Hi. Welcome to MomTalk. The blog about various and assorted things my mom does. Things that are not considered normal by nine-tenths of the population. Yeah. I really should start a separate blog just for Mom stuff. I'm not laughing at her...okay, I am. But she knows it.

The problem is the lack of a good name. MomTalk just doesn't work. I can't exactly call it Sh*t My Mom Does, because that's kind of been done in a slightly different way. However, my mom would NEVER approve of the word sh*t. No sirree, Bob! We were not even allowed to say f*rt in our house. Or p**p. Or cr*p. We were verbally constipated. The closest Mom ever came to putting that topic into words was when somebody, (and I'm sure it was none of our family, because we knew better, knew the sh*tstorm that would result if we let one r*p), allowed an iota of flatulence to escape in the vicinity of Mom's snout. Mom would get that put-upon expression on her face, that sad, sad look, like the little bioluminescent bluebird in Journey to the Center of the Earth, the one with Brendan Fraser and Josh Hutcherson, when Josh tried to hop across those floating magnetic rocks over a chasm a billion feet deep, and knocked the last one in the line away from the edge. "Does somebody need to go to the bathroom?" That's all it took. We were mortified. Not because we t**ted, but because our friends looked at us with such pity. Yes, I need a good name for that very special Mom blog. Somehow, I don't think Having To Go To the Bathroom Stuff My Mom Does, quite c*ts it.

Today was the big day. When Mom just knew she was going to get her car out. I had promised her that I would come by after school to take her to the bank if she couldn't get out. Mom didn't want me to go out of my way, but I insisted. I told her I would call her after school to see if she got her Blazer out. I figured if all went well, she would get out and drive herself to the bank and run around town and kick up her heels in her holey-kneed gray sweatpants. She, herself, mentioned yesterday that she thought she was going stir crazy. When I talked to her at 10:00 last night, she agreed that salt just might work on thawing that pile of compacted snow at the edge of the road. In fact, she had tried to crush some of those one-inch cubes left over from her water softener, but could not. She didn't want to toss them out whole, because all they do is melt down in a hole to the ground.

"Mom. What's that gonna hurt? It will make holes to break up the big chunk, and then lay on the gravel until it dissolves."

"I guess you're right. I have a little bucket down in the basement that I can put some in when I get my plant dirt. I know it will melt tomorrow. When the sun hits that dirt, it won't take long."

I woke up with a killer headache this morning. When I called Mom, she still had her dirt plan. She said, "I would ask if there's anything I can do for you, but, well, I'm probably not going anywhere until this afternoon." All day I wondered how Mom was getting along.

I called as soon as I got back inside from my parking lot duty. "Did you get your car out, Mom?"

"Well, I put it off until 2:00. I thought, 'Oh, I can't go through this again. It's so disappointing.' The sun really did a lot of melting. I went out several times, and took a shovel, and chopped around where that salt made holes. There was only a little strip left, between my gravel and the blacktop. And this time, I didn't turn my wheels. I backed straight out. I didn't have any problem at all. In fact, I did it without even having my 4WD on."

"Mom! I don't know what you're saving that 4WD for! If there was ever a time to use it, it's now."

"But I didn't need it. How's your headache? I've been worried about you all day."

"It's gone now. I took an ibuprofen around 9:30, but it didn't work until 11:45. That headache will probably come back later tonight, when the ibuprofen wears off."

"Oh, honey, I hope not. So, are you getting ready to come out?"

"NO! I'm going home. I've had such a day!"

"Oh. I was really looking forward to you coming by."

"Yeah, right! I'm sure you were!"

"You go on home and put your feet up. Maybe take a nap and get some rest while The Pony and Hick are gone to the academic meet. I'll get my stuff together and take my checks to the bank. You take care of yourself."

"Wait. You didn't go to the bank when you got your car out?"

"No. I went back down the driveway and put it in the garage. I knew you were coming by. I was even going to buy you supper while we were out, or give you some money to pick something up. I'm so glad you're feeling better. You don't need to come all the way out here. I can go to the bank."

"What time does you bank close, Mom? Five? I can make it."

"Oh, don't cry. You go on home. You are so good to me. I don't have to cash those checks today."

"I've got to put these grades in. It will take about ten minutes. Then I'll be right there."

"You can pull on down in the driveway." 

What kind of terrible daughter am I? It was just a misunderstanding. Two. I was sure Mom would drive herself to the bank when she got her car out. All the town roads have been clear for a week. And when she said she was looking forward to me coming by, I thought she was joking. I talk to her twice a day. So I thought she was pulling my leg, joshin' me, polishing her wit to a fine edge on the grindstone of sarcasm. I had no idea she had been waiting all day for me to come pick her up. I was beside myself. How selfish of me. I rushed through today's scores and tossed the in-school suspension work aside for grading tomorrow. Mom was standing in her door waiting when I got there.

Mom needs to write a book called Rude Stuff My Daughter Does. I would gladly buy the first copy with that ten-dollar bill she gave me when she climbed into T-Hoe.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Journey of 1000 Inches Begins with a Single Gas-Pedal Goose

My mom. I think I'll weep for her.

Mom has not been out of her house since the big snow last Tuesday. Today marks nine days, with only the briefest of escapes when I took her for a drive to the Dollar Tree on Sunday morning. I will commend Mom for trying. She asked me to come park on the road and watch her try to back her Blazer out of the garage and up the driveway. I did what any good seven-dollar daughter would do, and headed by McDonald's to pick up a Diet Coke and some grilled onion cheddar burgers for the shut-in.

Yes, Mom gave it the old night-college try. She backed out, partway up the drive, then started to slip. That was her clue to stop. Then try to back some more. Which is not really proper 4WD backing etiquette. It set her to spinning more. She couldn't even get her tires over into the path dug by her neighbor. Mom gave it about five attempts, then called it a day. I could see she was disappointed. That's when I told her to forget it and lock up her house and come for a ride. I said I would try to get the car out, but Mom declined.

Mom has been hanging onto the promises of the TV meteorologists every night. Each morning she rises with hope springing eternal, positive her driveway is going to melt. Yesterday, my sister the ex-mayor's wife and her daughter dropped by with the baby. Let the record show that they parked in the driveway. Did they offer to get her Blazer out of the driveway so she could run to town? No. Did they offer to take her to the bank to cash her little checks that are burning a hole in her business-size yellow safe? No. All they brought was a BABY! A month-old baby is no help with getting a car out of a snowy driveway. What they were thinking is beyoooooond me.

I told Mom I would come by after school today and take her to the bank. "Oh, no. I don't really have to get out. Besides, the temperature is going to be almost thirty. I'm sure I will be able to get out today."

On my way home, I called. "Did you get out of your driveway, Mom?"

"No. I got all the way to the top, but my tire was stuck on that deep part where the road was plowed. I even dug a hole in the gravel with my other tire, the one in the cleared path. I threw rocks all over the place. But I couldn't get out. Tomorrow it's supposed to be in the thirties. I'm going to take some soil out of my plants and put it on that patch of snow. It's dark. That will make it melt, like when I put ashes on the other part of the driveway."

"Mom. You might make mud. And your ashes probably got smushed down in when Sis parked there in the driveway. I'll come by after school tomorrow. The Pony has an academic meet, so I'll be by myself."

"You do too much for me. Don't worry. I don't HAVE to get out. I'm sure I'll be able to with my dirt."

"Have you tried salt? That's what most people use to melt their ice."

"Salt? I never thought of that!"

Seriously. By the time this quest is over, it's likely that Admiral Peary's expedition to the North Pole required less planning, time, and resources than what Mom is devoting to her unfortunate nature-forced incarceration.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Nothing Is Quite Simple For Val

I'm late! I'm late! For a very mediocre or possibly even sub-par blog post. But I have a good excuse.


Oh, my insurance woes never cease. At least I've been getting my medication on a timely basis. of the prescriptions is only available at CeilingReds, and it costs me three bills. Not Washingtons. Not Lincolns. Not Hamiltons. We're talking Jacksons! It's been that way for several months. Every time, the CeilingReds staff asks if I'm using the proper insurance card. Yes. Yes I am. One time they tried to run my secondary insurance card, but ended up telling me that their system won't let them bill a secondary insurance. So imagine my surprise today when the Window Gal asked for my secondary card.

I was in a hurry, you see, having just come from a nice visit with my best old ex-teaching buddy Mabel on the school parking lot. The plan was to pick up that prescription, then head over to the dead-mouse-smelling post office before it closed at 4:30 to pick up a package. I left plenty of time for my two errands. Or so I thought.

Fortune smiled upon me in the guise of an empty CeilingReds drive-thru lane. I had my three bills at the ready. I announced my name. Spelled it, even. Kept one eye on the clock. Window Gal asked if I was using the correct insurance card. I verified my primary. She frowned at her computer. I could see her through the bulletproof glass. Then she wanted my secondary card. I put it through the metal drawer. Time was ticking. A car pulled in behind me. Time marched on. A truck lined up behind the car. Time began to limp. Ten minutes had passed. I really needed to get out of there.

"I'll just pay for it. I've got to be somewhere else. I've been here quite a while. Just give me back my insurance card." Window Gal did not react. She squinted at her screen. She called over another staffer. I was getting agitated. I pecked on the bulletproof glass. I pushed the call button. Window Gal picked up the phone receiver. "I'll just pay. I don't have time for this today. I need to get to Backroads before 4:30." Window Gal pushed out the metal drawer. I put my three bills inside. She sucked it back in.

The truck guy squealed his tires and backed up, then barreled around the drive-thru, slowing down to glare at me like a madman. "I don't know what YOU'RE staring at!" I hollered. "It's not like I WANT to be here. I'm trying to leave!" Huh. He kept glaring, then sped around the corner. The car behind me also went around. Too bad, so sad. I've been stuck at the drive-thru before. But now it was different. I wanted to drive off. BUT CEILINGREDS NOW HAD MY INSURANCE CARD AND MY THREE BILLS, while I had nothing. Not even a person to hear my demands.

I pushed the call button again. "I REALLY need to leave. Just send out my medicine and my insurance card. I'll deal with this another time." Five minutes later, I got my goods. Window Gal explained that their system in unable to bill a secondary insurance. JUST LIKE THEY SAID A COUPLE OF MONTHS AGO! I wish they'd get their act together. And not cost me twenty minutes and a possible drive-thru-rage attack.

The dead mouse was gasping its last breath when we arrived.

Monday, February 10, 2014

WARNING: Immature Content

You're not gonna believe this one. I was going to send it to my blog buddy Joe H. for his fake headlines. But it's real. And it's spectacular. Sorry, Joe. I'm keeping it.

You know how Val tries to keep you in-the-know. Whether it's feces transplants, or gender-and-species confused tuxedo cats, or a single spider exploding into millions of itsy-bitsy spiders at five minutes to midnight in a dark basement are there. So tonight, in the spirit of keeping my readers abreast of development in the world of animal rescues, I present:

"It Is Weird, But My Maternal Instinct Just Kicked In"

Oh, it's weird all right! And something needs to be kicked. Wait! Perhaps that title is not descriptive enough. Here's the rest of it: "How a woman breast-fed an orphaned Labrador puppy when it was just one hour from death." Uh huh. Now you want to click on it, don't you?

I cry shenanigans! How did that woman know the puppy was one hour from death? Is she psychic? Is she a veterinarian? Oh, no. She's not. But a real veterinarian advised against this practice of human women breastfeeding canine puppies. Go figure! Seems diseases could be passed. You don't say! And that Feeder had a 15-month-old child! Ain't that a kick in the head? "Sorry, honey. You can eat later. The puppy is one hour from death. It's his turn now." Or maybe she let them both feed at the same time. What's that you say? That would be just plain weird? THE WHOLE FREAKIN' SITUATION IS WEIRD!

Certain lines should not be crossed. Like the puppy lips on a human nipple line. Somewhere, between love and madness, lies obsession. Wait! That was a Calvin Klein commercial. But this woman is clearly obsessed. And quite mad, in my opinion. I'm not a puppy-hater. I rescued that puppy who turned into my best pet ever, my sweet, sweet Juno, when my mom tried to starve her so she would go away. But let me set the record straight. If it came down to the ONLY way I could save my future sweet, sweet Juno was by breastfeeding her...I would have gotten a shovel and started digging her the best grave ever. Call me a dog-killer if you must. But one thing nobody is ever going to call Val is a puppy-suckler.

Seriously. Where do we draw the line? Maybe puppy-suckling is a gateway behavior. Before you know it, that gal could be arrested (in some states) for having intimate relations with an equine! I try to be open-minded, but canoodling between species should be prohibited. Even if Feeder wanted to save that puppy she knew was going to die in one hour, and the only antidote was her breast milk straight from the teat, DID SHE HAVE TO CONVENIENTLY PROVIDE A PICTURE OF THE ACT ON FACEBOOK? And keep breastfeeding him until the one-time runt with one hour to live eventually outgrew his litter mates to the extent he is now called TUBS?

I think not.

My proposed handbasket factory will reap the benefits.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Thevictorians Wobble, But They Still Fall Down

Woe is Val. She took a spill yesterday. Oh, not outside on the slippery, icy landscape. Nope. Val is not a conventional stumbler. She lurches to her own drummer. She slammed myself to the floora firma inside her own residence.

Yes, in her sad bid for attention, Val threw caution to the breather winds and her well-padded skeleton to the braided rug over press-down tile over concrete floor of her basement retreat. The timing was not conducive to attention-garnering. At 10:10 p.m., Genius had departed thirty minutes earlier, Hick had retired to his boudoir in anticipation of his 4:00 a.m. wake-up call for a business trip, and The Pony had stepped into the shower above a scant ten minutes previous.

So there was Val, wondering how things had gone so horribly wrong, helpless upon the floor like a turtle on its back. "AAAAAGGHHHH" did not elicit a reaction. So sad. Good thing Val's expiration date was not up.

I had just turned on my lamp, the one which previously needed pliers for operation, and was backing up to turn to my blue basement recliner. Unfortunately, the 12' x 8' braided rug which my grandma had given me way back before Genius was born had other ideas. That rug has gaps that open their toothless maws every now and then. Gaps between the rings of braids. One such gap chomped onto the heel of my red Croc. I thought I could save myself. I really did. In fact, I felt my momentum almost stop. I put my left hand down on a giant box of candy that Genius had gotten at Walmart on Thanksgiving night and given to The Pony for Christmas. It's down to eight pieces left. My hand crushed through the top, down into the bottom section, all the way to the table. But my Croc heel was still held captive by the gap. My center of gravity pulled me down, down, down, left arm scrabbling at that coffee table. Nope. Gravity won this one.

I suppose I'm lucky I didn't crack my skull. Thanks for the cushy braided attempted-murderer, Grandma. I have a lovely bruise on the inside of my elbow, a sore right abdomen from attempting to right myself in the crunch to end all crunches, and a pain between my big toe and second toe that has something to do with that Croc ending up sideways on my foot.

Yes. If Val falls in a basement and no one is there to hear...she still makes a sound. Several, in fact.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

One More From My Mom's Driveway Files

We have snow on the ground again. It's been here since Tuesday. And you know what that means to my mom. People need to STAY OUT OF HER DRIVEWAY!

I don't know why Mom is like that. She says it's because the snow gets packed down and turns into ice. So she placidly sits inside her brick split-level home, waiting for the thaw. Oh, she ventures out to get the mail and her newspaper. But she doesn't walk up the driveway. Mom goes straight up through the yard. Can't have compacted footprints making that driveway all slippery.

Another excuse Mom gives for the driveway ban is that she's afraid people might get stuck there. And by "people" she is referring to relatives, like me, Genius, Hick, and my sister the ex-mayor's wife. The ex-mayor himself is apparently immune, since during the last big freeze he waltzed his SUV right down in there without permission before crotchety ol' Mom could step out on her porch, cantankerously shake a broom at him, and holler, "You ex-mayors stay out of my driveway!" Thank goodness the Ex-M didn't get stuck. I don't think Mom fully grasps the concept of four-wheel drive. And you'd think she's never heard of a tow truck, either. It's like she fears somebody getting stranded and having to live with her until spring. Maybe she has Donner tendencies. She does, after all, refuse to leave the house until all snow is melted. It's a good thing she has people looking out for her.

On Thursday, Mom looked through the front window (to see if the snow had melted yet, I presume) and saw that somebody had shoveled a path down her driveway. "I don't know who would have done that. They went all the way down to the gravel on that one side, right up to the porch. They even cleared off the steps. But I don't go that way. I don't want to slip. I take my broom and walk through the snow. I did go across the yard and then up the driveway path, though. They even shoveled over to my mailbox."

"Huh. You have more odd happenings at your house! What if it's that guy who brought you two bags of hedgeapples after not talking to you for 11 years? I'm sure it was your neighbor. The one who brought you your mail last time. He might be expecting more Chex Mix."

"Oh, did I tell you? When I got out Tuesday morning, to mail my weekly card to Genius with the five dollars in it, I called Neighbor's Wife to tell her I was going to put last week's tabloids in her paper box. I had a little snack bag of Chex Mix left over, and I put that in there, too."

"NO! Not her paper box! What if the paper lady thinks it's for HER?"

"Oh, on my way home, I made sure to look and see if Neighbor's Wife had got it yet, and she had. The paper lady doesn't come until after noon, except on the weekends."

"Well, that's good to know. I remember how you said Neighbor got that Chex Mix you left him one time, and he had eaten half of it before he got up his driveway."

"You know, I always ask Neighbor's Wife if I can run those tabloids up to her house. I'm on my way to town anyway, and I'm driving right by. But you know, she tells me to put them in her paper box. Then she comes right out to get them. Neighbor's Wife won't let me come up her driveway! She lets everyone else, but not me!"

"Ha ha! Listen to who's complaining about not being allowed in a driveway!"

Mom did not see the irony in the situation. Maybe it's not even irony. Maybe Mom is as irony-challenged as I am. Maybe it's genetic.

Friday, February 7, 2014

A New Case On Judge Val's Docket

Remember when I kind of without asking accused Hick of messing with the under-desk space heater in my dark basement lair? I still haven't asked. But something happened Wednesday night that gave me pause. Made me think that perhaps my sweet baboo was blameless of all assumptions. Innocent until proven guilty!

I used my electronic leg-skin-baker while happily peck peck pecking at my keyboard until around 9:00 p.m. Then I turned it off, as I always do, and went to other parts of the basement for big-screen TV viewing. I called my mom around 10:00, watched a little TMZ so I know what's going on in the entertainment world, and fell asleep in my blue recliner. I awoke around 2:00 a.m., all bespectacled and wandering where the time had gone. I pried my old glasses from behind my ears, and went upstairs to go to bed.

In the kitchen, I plugged in my cell phone to charge for the rest of the night. And the doubt of Hick's dastardly deed wafted through my mind like tendrils of fog in a Scooby Doo mystery. I smelled something. Not something rotting inside Frig. Not supper onions left on the counter. Something burny. Like electrical wire kind of burny.

I checked the toaster that nobody uses until Genius comes home. Cold as a witch's teat. Stuck my nose up under the cabinets by the mini fluorescent lights. No odor. We have no other appliances on the counter. Not coffee drinkers in need of a maker are we. I sniffed Frig's nether regions. Nope. Fresh as a dusty daisy. WAIT! Maybe my under-desk heater had an electrical short. I know I turned it off. But what if something was all melty between the wall plug and the business end of The UnderBaker? I really did not want to walk back downstairs. But, like a devious table lamp, The UnderBaker is one of those gadgets that can't be trusted not to burst into flame if you leave it on all night.

Funny. The burning rubber aroma did not seem to come from my left, the area toward the basement stairs. It came from the right. The area across the sink counter, the table nook. Nothing on that side to combust. Just a cuckoo clock that runs on weights that hang on chains. A wooden table and four chairs. A wooden stool. The metal kitchen door. Mini-blinds. Hick's coat hanging over the chair back. Hick's boots.

HICK'S BOOTS! He's only had them since around the time of the Good Feet Store debacle. Let's not dwell on that. Hick's steel-toe tan suede work boots with their relatively new rubber soles sat square on the metal heating vent beside the kitchen door. Let the record show that the temperature Wednesday night was -11 in Backroads. So the furnace ran pretty much continuously, with short intermissions to draw breath. The heating vent had no chance to cool down. Kind of like a domestic China Syndrome, or a truck chopped into parts and buried at Kerr-McGee's Cimmaron River plutonium plant. Like Cher as Dolly Pelliker told Meryl Streep as Karen Silkwood that her friend Sudie Bond as Thelma Rice had been were Hick's boot soles. Only Hick's boots were cooked from the outside by heat, and not from the inside by plutonium.

Yeah. Hick is acquitted of under-desk heater tampering, and will face more severe charges of in-kitchen boot-melting.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Val Realizes an Underlying Reality of the Underground

Well, this is awkward. Yesterday I left you in my grandpa's basement. Calm down. I'm coming back for you now. There's no reason to be scared, even if you didn't know where to reach the pull-strings for those light bulbs. Uh huh. The switch by each door only turned on the closest bulb. You'd think a guy who was an electrician might have remedied that situation, huh? But it was only a basement to him. Not a personal playground.

I was never scared in that basement. No headless men appeared to me. I heard no footsteps or unexplained sounds. No, I was never scared. But I did have an eerie moment. It must have been a weekend. My grandpa had been in and out, and had left the light on over his workbench. I liked looking at the pegboard on the wall behind it, seeing the tools arranged on their hooks. Of course there were always works in progress on the bench itself. Greasy shop towels, chunks of motors, odd cans in varieties of shapes containing lubricants, dissolvers, cleaners, paint, and varnish, with brushes in various stages of cleanliness laying across their lids.

On this afternoon I felt drawn to the workbench. It was like that light was a spotlight, pulling me towards one certain section. I crept closer, my bare feet cool on the concrete, coated with a thin layer of reddish-brown dust that could never be swept from the basement floor. I don't know why I felt the need to move with stealth. Nobody ever yelled at me for playing in the basement. Grandpa had let me stand next to him at the workbench many a time. I was the oldest grandchild on that side of the family. I could do no wrong.

As I got closer, I saw a metal plate laying flat on the wooden workbench. It glowed like a penny in the reflected light. It was not too big, not too small. About the size of my baby-blue plastic rectangular pencil box with the corrugated opaque plastic cover that slid open and closed like a roll-top desk. I loved that pencil box.

There was writing on that shiny metal plate. IT WAS MY NAME! Valerie Sue Thevictorian! And there were numbers under my name. Dates. IT WAS A HEADSTONE NAMEPLATE! But I wasn't dead! I was standing right there, in the cool dim safety of my grandpa's basement.

Oh, yeah. I was named after my father's little sister, who had died in early childhood of an infection. I knew who I was named for, but I really didn't dwell on it. It was not a matter that was ever discussed around me. I backed away from the workbench and went outside.

The basement had lost its charm for me that day. But I would be back.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Ancient Underground

Don't hate Val because she's beautiful. Or because she's a silver-fingered story-typer. Or even because she is the proud owner of a garage door with a spring held together by a clamp and a promise, and a 25-year-old oven with one working element. You are allowed, however, to hate Val because she spent her 16th snow day of this school year lolling about her husband's La-Z-Boy watching HGTV's Income Property.

Okay. I didn't spend the whole day watching basement renovations. I spent half the day in my own dark basement lair. We always planned on using our basement as an extension of our living area. A basement is a terrible thing to waste. It's a whole 'nother house! I'm not ready to convert it into four apartments to rent to college students, so I'll never be on Income Property. I'm glad my grandma and grandpa never rented their basement to college students. Some might think they let that space go to waste. But not my 7-11-year-old self!

I grew up next door to Grandma and Grandpa, my dad's parents, in a mobile home on their spare lot. To borrow a partial quote from Frances "Baby" Houseman, " didn't occur to me to mind." My sister the future mayor's wife and I had the run of the basement. It was never locked. We had access through the outside door, down a set of six concrete steps under the sunporch on the back of Grandpa's house.

The house itself didn't interest me. You entered through the front door, and it was a straight shot through the living room, dining room, kitchen (where Grandpa kept his jar of pickled pigs' feet), and screened-in sun porch filled with a piano and old furniture piled with coats. Through an archway off the right of the dining room was the hallway to the master bedroom on the right, where Grandma kept her fat-jiggling belted vibrator machine, and the twin-bed room to the left, with a bookcase filled with Zane Grey and Hardy Boys books. Oh, and there was a bathroom with almond-smelling Jergens lotion, and peroxide and Mercurochrome. But the most fascinating part of that hardwood-floored hallway was the door to the basement, located between the twin-bed room and the bathroom.

It's not like I had to sneak away to enter the basement. Nobody really ran after me or told me to stay out. Sometimes Grandma would flip on the light switch for me before I started down, but I was perfectly capable, and unafraid, even in the dark. After all, the basement had windows around the top edge that let in some light. In the summer, you could swing them open and hook them to the ceiling for ventilation. The staircase down was steep, with no handrail, made of creaky wood. I balanced myself by putting a hand on each wall until I ran out of wall. By that time I was about seven steps down, near the landing, where a black metal pipe ran along the right side to keep one from tumbling off onto Grandpa's workbench that ran along the side of the house all the way to the front. A cute set of four triangle-shaped steps led me down to the left, putting me into the concrete-floored basement proper.

That area at the bottom of the steps was our unofficial playroom. Not so much a playroom as a stack of toys that were too numerous for our mobile home, and were piled willy-nilly according to season. My favorites were the child-sized air mattress with a clear plastic window for looking straight down into the water, and a blue and a green hard plastic fish suitable for sitting on in river or pool, in a butt-sized hollow between the whale-headed fish's wide shoulders and curving tail. Much of my Johnny West horse collection was there as well, along with Etch-A-Sketches, chalk boards, baseball bats and gloves, an Easy Bake Oven, Feely Meely, Creepy Crawlers, Fun Flowers, Kerplunk, Mousetrap, and a pile of other games. Nobody ever yelled at us to straighten them. It was our territory, taking up about a fourth of the basement.

Across from the toy wonderland, on the other side, unofficially divided by the outside door's walkway through the basement, was Grandpa's territory. This is where he kept his push mower, his outboard motor, a couple of tires, and mechanical stuff in which I had no interest. Moving back along that side took us to Grandpa's stove. It was for cooking, but not for food. Grandpa cooked his work clothes there. Yep. In a big pot, he boiled his work clothes, dipping in every now and then with a wooden spoon to stir or lift them up. He wore some kind of striped coverall zippered outfit, but I don't remember much about it. Only that he worked as an electrician in the lead mines.

The regular washer and dryer was next. Then the very best part of all: MY GRANDMA'S BOOK ROOM! Oh, it was grand. The room used to be a coal room. There was a little door up near the top, on the outside wall, where coal came in. Except the door was sealed off outside by the sidewalk, and this was now an unofficial library. Every wall was covered with books. Floor to ceiling. Shelves were just book width, painted a shiny battleship gray, built by my Grandpa. Oh, I spent hours in there. I could leave the gray plywood door open, or close it with a little slide-bar latch. The floor in the book room was a patterned red-and-black carpet, comfortable to sitting or laying or barefoot pacing. I had my run of the place. My sister was not the least bit interested. All that mattered to her was that I did not sit on her blue plastic fish from the toy pile.

Basements today are such antiseptic, operating-room-lit, unimaginative places for kids to play.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Neither Rain, Nor Snow, Nor Dark of Night...

Have you heard? The mail has been running late. Maybe it's just around Backroads. People complain that the mail carriers are out at 9:00 p.m. with headlamps, delivering junk. They get their neighbor's mail. They find their own dumped in a snowdrift. Folks have been up in arms about their bills being late. To the tune of 30 days late, with city water bills. Somebody complained to a congresswoman, and the bills were "found" and delivered within several days. I had no dog in that fight. (That's just an expression. Val Thevictorian certainly does not condone canine altercations. Nor stuffing felines into sacks just to release them.) We have well water, so whether people pay or do not pay their water bill on time is of no nevermind to me.

What does concern me, though, is my credit card bill. We only use one card. On purpose. And we pay it off every month. It normally comes around the 25th, and I send my check right back out in the mail. I'm not one to let things slide until the due date. Bill in, money out. No forgetting that way. Hick used to wait until the due date. "Why should I let them earn interest on my money instead of me?" Yeah. Like earning interest is even much of an option these days.

Anyhoo...I looked and looked for my credit card bill every day. Some days we got NO mail. Some days we got junk mail. Still, the credit card bill did not arrive. I looked on my old statement. It's not really due until the 18th. But with the state of postal service in Backroads lately, I didn't want to cut the turnaround time short. I have been telling Hick for at least a week that our credit card bill is missing. "Maybe it got put in somebody else's box. We get that one lady's Victoria's Secret catalog all the time. And that other guy's retirement check statement. I guess we're out of luck if somebody took it. They'll have our account number and address and know where we charge stuff. I've been calling that automated number to make sure no new charges are on it. I guess I'll just call tomorrow and tell them we didn't get the bill, and pay it over the phone with the debit card. At least it'll be done."

This morning we didn't go to school again because of the snow. That means that I got to loll in the warm bed with no sharp toenails woodpeckering at my shins while Hick got up and went to work. I was up by 7:30 to remind The Pony to take the trash dumpster to the end of the driveway. I went into the kitchen and saw a note on the counter. This was not the usual note on a paper plate, but a note on the back of a wide junk-maily envelope. Still in Hick's handwriting, though.

"Val, I found this mail in the truck. I guess it's been in there since the last time I drove it and picked up the mail." Which would have been, oh, I don't know...during the last batch of continuous snow days.

Under that note and a DISH Network advertisement and a Consumer Reports junk mail fake magazine was our credit card bill. I checked the statement. It was sent out on January 15th.

I can't blame the post office for this one.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Meh Bowl

There was nothing super about that Super Bowl. And to think, I watched it 'til the very end, waiting to see the puppy/Clydesdale commercial, which did not appear until the 2-minute warning. Had it been shown earlier, I might have abandoned all hope of being entertained, like my mom, who switched it off once the score was 22-0.

Mom does not suffer losers gladly. She's like her own mom, who couldn't wait to watch the Cardinals on TV, then turn them off if they got behind. Not a good loser, my grandma. Many a time she trounced us grandkids at croquet. Not merely beating us by playing a steady mature game to our scatterbrained, immature efforts. No. A bloodthirsty, give-no-quarter game of placing her orthopedic shoe on top of her black ball, next to our colorful striped orb, and whacking us across the blacktop road into the dense hardwood forest. To her credit, she DID walk to the edge of the yard and watch both ways for cars while my boy cousin ran across to fetch them back.

Even though the game was a bust, Val the eternal optimist stuck around for those fantastic commercials. I said stuck around for those fantastic commercials. Except there were no fantastic commercials. There were confusing commercials. And boring commercials. And commercials which did not seem to be advertising a product. But no fantastic commercial. A couple were passable. The Doritos time machine. The Doberhuahua. The Carfax slow-clapping Rudy commercial. And the '80s wanting their Radio Shack back.

Halftime was not of any entertainment value to me. Don't like 'em, don't listen to 'em, don't need to see 'em in a major production. In fact, I may have, commented to Hick, please pardon my crass analogy, "This halftime show appears to be a real sausagefest this year. I don't think a lot of guys want to see Bruno Mars and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. And aren't most of the viewers of the Super Bowl guys? I mean, sure the women might be watching with one eye while bringing out more snacks, but I imagine the demographic is predominantly male." Okay. So I didn't use those exact words. I was talking to Hick, remember? I just mentioned that guys wouldn't like it, and women would be busy during halftime.

Hick got my drift. We're simpatico like that. "Who IS that guy? I've never seen him before. And who's that fool with his shirt off? What they need is the Rockettes. They don't even need music. Just the Rockettes, kickin' their legs up. I'd rather hear that opera gal sing the Star-Spangled Banner again than this guy. The last time I remember a halftime show at the Super Bowl was Janet Jackson. They need Janet Jackson again."

There you have it. A review of the Super Bowl broadcast by Thevictorians.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Tampering Day Hick-In-Here

Some folks can find water by walking across a field with a forked stick or two unbent coat hangers. Others can predict weather by their joints, a rheumatism forecast. Poker players can discern tells in their opponents that telegraph bluffing. Val possesses none of those skills. But she can sniff out a conspiracy quicker than a bloodhound sniffs out the trail of a zebra-stripe-uniformed escaped convict lugging an iron ball chained to his ankle.

Friday, Hick planned to stay late at work. He said he wasn't going in until noon. The Pony and I left for school as normal while Hick slept in. We got home after five, and went about our Friday-night business.

I pulled up my chair to my New Delly in the V of adjoining butcher-block countertops in my dark basement lair. That's my built-in desk. I love it. Hick made if for me, even following my specifications. It's just right. Except that my office has no heating or cooling vents. Sure, it's underground. Cool in the summer, warm in the winter...compared to outside temperatures. However, it does have two concrete walls which abut the external environment. So in the winter, I have a little space heater under my countertop desk. It's toasty. I often find myself at school, reaching down to turn it on, when I don't have one at school.

Friday night, I turned on my heater. It takes a few minutes to warm my workspace. As much as I love my countertop desk, it is icy cold in winter. You could mix tasty candies in ice cream on that surface, like at Stone Cold Steve's Creamery. That's the name, right, of that ice cream shop run by the ex-wrestler? No meltage of your chocolate chip cookie dough Gummi Bear banana mint on Val's countertop. No sirree, Bob!

After my initial jolt of internet knowledge, I noticed that my heater was not toasty. It was barely warming my left leg. I was as disappointed as a caffeineophile tossing back an espresso and discovering it was only the meltwater left from a 44 oz. Diet Coke full of ice from the day before. Oh, dear. Surely my little Spacy had not gone the way of my oven. Surely he was not out of his element.

I reached down to see if he was sitting on his cord. That makes him shut off, if he is jostled, or sitting unevenly. But he was humming. Purring along. Spitting out lukewarm air. Spacy has two dials. The only one I ever touch is his on-off. Depending on the ambient temperature of my dark basement lair, I might turn that dial a quarter turn, or all the way to half, straight up-and-down. When the surrounding temp is warm enough, Spacy shuts himself off. But now he was blowing weak atmospheric sauce.

I searched for the other button. I've not messed with it in years. I found a happy medium, and left it. Huh. I didn't bother to turn on the light. A bright basement lair is only conducive to tax season. Aha! There it was. I turned that control to the right. And Spacy got all fired up. Huh. What was that all about?

My tack-sharp conspiracy-sniffing mind says that Hick paid a visit to my lair while I was at work. That Hick took it upon himself to dial back my comfort. Whether to make me spend less time there, or make me spend less money on the electric bill and quit harping on the cash we waste heating his empty BARn. I don't presume to understand the motives of Hick. But all signs point to tamperage with my office cozy.

I have not yet addressed the discovery. What Hick doesn't know never hurts him.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

And Now, the Rest of Mom's Story

My mom. The gift that keeps on giving. And I'm not talking about her five dollars here and ten dollars there. When we last convened, Mom told me a story of her friend Freda leaving a card in her newspaper box yesterday. A card that was mysteriously absent when Mom went up to the road to get her paper. Just to fill you in on a pertinent detail to which you were not privy previously, the card was a sympathy card in response to the passing and subsequent funeral of Mom's brother.

I called Mom this evening, and offhandedly asked, "So, did you get your card today?" Because, you see, we thought the Newspaper Lady might have noticed that the card was not addressed to her, and would put in back in the box today.

"Oh, yes! You've got to hear this!" Yes. I did. But first I silenced Mom while I watched the forecast. A ten-dollar daughter can get away with that, you know. Mom doesn't mind listening to me breathe for five minutes before resuming our conversation.

"What was that, Mom? The weather is over. You might not want to get out for church tomorrow morning. So you got your card? I bet that was a relief. I guess she saw that it was addressed to you."

"NO! I said I got a card. But it wasn't that card! It was a THANK YOU CARD! And it was addressed to Freda! Here. I'll read it to you: 'Dear Freda: Thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful card. Thank you for thinking of me. I appreciate your kindness. Not many like you out here. God bless. Newspaper Lady. P.S. You made my day.' Not only did Newspaper Lady take my card, she thought it was for her! And she sent back a thank you note!"

"That is too funny. I can't believe the stuff you get into. Did you find out if the card was addressed on the envelope?"

"Yes. I saw Newspaper Lady leave my paper this morning around 8:00. It comes early on the weekend. I went up and got it, and saw that card stuffed down in the plastic wrapper. I couldn't believe what I read. Then I had to wait to call Freda. She says she doesn't answer her phone until 9:00. So as soon as it was 9:00, I called and read her that card. She said that she will never leave anything in that box again! That my card had my name on the outside of the envelope. She said she had a mind to call Newspaper Lady and tell her that the card was MINE, and she had no business taking it. I wouldn't be surprised if Freda calls the newspaper office and tries to get Newspaper Lady fired."

"Didn't you read her the lovely thank you note? I can't believe someone would get a sympathy card, without even needing sympathy, and automatically assume it was written for her! But it's not like she was just a common thief, thinking, perhaps, that she'd found a birthday card that might have money in it. She didn't throw it away and pretend she never saw it. She took the time to write a thank you note!"

"Well, I'm thinking about putting a card in the box tomorrow telling her, 'Freda doesn't live here. I don't know who Freda is, or what this card is all about.'"

"Oh, no! Then Newspaper Lady will know she messed up. She will be embarrassed. What if she feels bad and takes an overdose of something?"

"The card DID have my name on it. And she took it. I guess it's possible that she thinks I've forgotten her name is Newspaper Lady, and that I think it's my name."

"I don't know how you get yourself into these predicaments. Maybe it WASN'T a dog that unwrapped your foil cinnamon roll and took one bite and wrapped it back up. Maybe it was Newspaper Lady. She has opposable thumbs, you know. And your card."

"I'm going to make a copy of this thank you card and give it to Freda."

"I'd really like to know what your sympathy card said."

"Me too."

Mom and Freda. Lucy and Ethel. Classic comedy duos.