Wednesday, April 30, 2014

There Are Good Business Practices, There Are Bad Business Practices, and Then There Is Crap

I don’t know what’s going on in your neck of the woods, but here in Backroads, the talk of the town is the forced hookup of cable boxes. I don’t have cable, so I may not be the most reliable of sources. I used to have cable when I lived in town, and it was out at least one day a week. Not that I got a reduction on the bill or anything.

My mom was all discombobulated because she doesn’t want the boxes. I thought it was simply because the elderly don’t like change. Then she was upset because DISH Network tried to stiff-arm her into getting a credit card or using mine in order to establish service with them.

Well, well, well. I’ve gathered a bit more information on CableGate. The talk at the teacher lunch table was that if you don’t get the boxes, you won’t get a signal. You have to get a box for each TV in your house. And there is a monthly service charge of $24 PER BOX! That’s highway robbery! The one telling the story has five TVs. She said that they just found out about the box thingy, because their bill is paid and they don’t even open the envelope when a paper bill arrives. She sent her husband to the office to pick up the boxes, and he said they had an ARMED GUARD in the lobby, because people were so hateful about being forced to get the cable boxes.

Oh, but it gets better. The counter clerk complimented Luncher’s husband on his polite behavior. In fact, they told him that since he was so polite, they were going to give him his cable boxes for half price. Don’t that just beat all? She said that other people were coming in, declaring, “This is CRAP! We don’t want the boxes. We don’t want all those channels. We are fine with what we have.”

I had to agree with them. “Well, it IS crap if they can pick and choose who gets service for half price. How fair is that? Obviously, they can afford to give away the service to SOME people, so they must have jacked up the price to begin with.”

“I’m not sure they gave him the boxes for half price. Maybe they gave him an upgrade for the regular price.”

“Same difference. Some people get a special rate on the whim of the counter clerk. That’s no way to run a business.”

I also found out that my mom was getting her cable box fee waived for the first year. She didn’t say why. Maybe it was because she was threatening to ditch them for DISH. Maybe it was because she’s a septuagenarian. In any case, that’s not fair, either.

Mom was really upset this morning. “Ever since Genius hooked up my cable box, I can’t tell what time it is in here. The old one had a red light and showed the time. This one just has a red light. I never know what time it is in the dark.”

I hope that armed guard is still in the lobby, just in case Mom decides to give them a piece of her mind about the clock thing.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

No Tisket. No Tasket. No Basket.

The Pony has been derelict in his egg duties lately. It's not so much his fault, since we have not been finding many eggs. In fact, it got to the point where Hick would ask The Pony, "Did you collect THE EGG today?" Since not much was going on in the laying department, Hick started grabbing THE EGG after feeding the livestock, and bringing it in himself. Before you go accusing my sweet, sweet Juno of partaking of the hen fruit each day while we are away at work, please consider the fact that there has been an upturn in egg production.

Last week, Hick found a hen sitting on a pile of eggs. And before that, we got three surprise chicks. So I'm thinking those crafty hens have been laying in new hiding places. Life would be so much simpler if we kept them in a pen, rather than letting them have the run of 20 acres. Of course, they prefer to stay close by, like in the front yard, the front woods, or on the front porch.

We used to get a variety of eggs, from white, thanks to the leghorns, and greeny blue, thanks to the Ameraucanas, and brown from the black silkies, and tiny brown from the black banties. We might or might not have gotten one or two from the checkerboard banty couple. Alas, many of our feathered friends are no longer with us, due to predators in the night and possibly daytime while we're away. So lateley, all of our eggs have been big and greeny blue. Like the one on the left.

Hick and The Pony were gone over the weekend, to the Missouri USBC Youth Bowling Tournament. Hick picked up a couple of eggs before he left Saturday. On Sunday, he found another one. Monday evening, he called for The Pony to come collect EGGS. I was in the kitchen when he returned with three in his hands. The Pony put them in the wire egg basket on Hick's section of the counter, by the door.

"Aren't you supposed to take the basket outside to collect the eggs? Isn't it a bit backward to put the eggs in the basket when you get back in the house?"

"Well, Dad just said to come get them. He didn't say to wash them. So I'm leaving them here for him to do that. Besides, I didn't need the basket."

"Wasn't it hard to carry three eggs in your hand and open the door?"

"Not really. And that's not all." The Pony reached down below the counter. "He started pulling out eggs like a magician pulling an endless string of handkerchiefs. "I put some in my pocket."

I imagined one or two. But no. The Pony pulled six eggs out of one pocket on his shorts.

"What if the dogs had bumped against you? Or if you had tripped and fallen down on the big flat rock that looks like the United States?"

"But I didn't. So it doesn't matter."

Oh, for the days when The Pony grabbed his little red & green Easter basket and ran out the front door looking for eggs every evening. Now he's even too cool for a green metal wire basket.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Invasion of the Cloddy Smashers

Is it humanly possible for one man to track in more mud on his feet each day than Hick? Lest you think this is a rhetorical question, and sit there on your typing fingers without is not. I can't HEAR you! What's that? Somebody said, "Yes." What a wiseacre! If you said, "Yes," I must require you to provide a name, physical description, and address of the dirty (non-flying) bird who can top Hick's daily quota of dirt inside a 1600-square-foot home.

Sure, there's probably some mutant male with webbed feet for scooping, and suction-cup toes for a vacuum effect, with hair on his tootsies like velcro for clingage, his man-hooves exceeding the length of Bigfoot's so that in the future, a Sasquatch will be known as Tiny-Ped, who could achieve this level of Pig-Pennage. Until I am informed of his name and whereabouts, Hick is still the champ.

I could sweep the kitchen floor twice daily and still not have a smooth surface on which to walk without getting a stone bruise from a clod deposited by Hick's clodhoppers. If I let these zigzag lightning bolts of dried mud accumulate, we would soon find ourselves gasping in the thin air of a new summit, Mount Clodamanjaro. The topsoil of Backroads has surely been shaved down to bedrock with Hick's daily collection of dirt. He could have been a hero in dubya dubya eye eye, in that Stalag Luft III, helping the Allied prisoners make a great escape, hauling the tunnel dirt out onto the yard. He coulda been buddies with James Garner!

Hick does not see himself as a record-holder. In fact, he modestly denies his talents. He seems to think other residents deserve partial, if not ALL, the credit for this clodfest. Alas, circumstantial evidence is not in his favor. The Pony and I walk from the concrete-floored garage, onto the concrete sidewalk, up the wooden steps, across the wooden porch, and into the kitchen. No dirt on our soles. Until we get inside, of course. Where we are subjected to the mine field of topsoil fragments lolling upon the linoleum, crushing them like so many grapes under Lucy and Ethel's feet. We can't help ourselves. Like Zach Mayo in An Officer and a Gentleman, we " nowhere else to go!" It's not like we have shoes that fit the chair feet on my classroom furniture, and can avoid the clumps strewn like sprinkles across a confetti cake.

You're an unclean one, Mr. Hick. You've got topsoil in your sole. To measure your daily leavings, it would take a thirty-nine-and-a-half-foot pole.

Clean up your act. And my kitchen floor. Or at least check your clodhoppers at the door.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Epitome of Pitiful

I love lilacs. My old house, the $17,000 one in town, had two beautiful lilac bushes. One bloomed light purple flowerets, and the other bloomed dark purple. I would step out of the car and bury my face in the light purple lilacs by the driveway. When we built our house in Outer Backroadsia, I yearned for my lilacs. Hick dug up two bushes from my grandma's yard. Grandma was happy to donate them. She was also an old-school realist. "It takes lilacs seven years to bloom."

It did! Took seven years for my fragrant flowers to pop out. Then the first year of bloomage, the smaller bush froze to death. That's all I can surmise, after it grew seven years to fruition, then went kaput. The other took off. Shoots shot out in all directions. It even bloomed in OCTOBER the year my Grandma passed away. Yes. I have photo evidence:

True, the entire bush did not bloom in the arid scorched earth of early October. Some leaves remained withered from the drought. But a few respectful blooms popped up in honor of Grandma.

Then Hick grew careless in goat-tending. The goat herd was in its heyday. I think we had over a dozen. Of course lilac bushes are like candy for goats. Forget the tin cans and thorn trees and cedar bark. Goats luuuurrrve themselves some lilacs. At times, I caught them munching away on the tender shoots and tasty leaves. Hick swore that he took his eyes off them for only a second, and one got away, then the others followed. Uh huh. Low on a mower sat a piddling goatherd, not paying a bit of attention to his furry, four-legged locusts.

The caprine invasion did not just happen once. Or twice. It was a regular weekly affair. I even caught Hick trying to camouflage the evidence. Okay. The Pony tipped me off. He duct-taped some major branches back together after Goatrude, the ring leader, stood on her hind legs to reach the most succulent morsels, and broke off limbs with her forelegs.

As we came up the driveway last week, The Pony said, "Look at your lilac bush." He was not taunting me. He was actually trying to cheer me up. "It's blooming. See?"

"It looks like a poodle. Lilac bushes should be covered with blooms. Blooms so heavy that limbs hang low. Mine has a few sprigs. It's sad, really. It used to be beautiful."

Now, with a different bad phone camera, I have preserved the evidence of my lilacs decline. The lush spring colors cannot hide the lack of lilacs, or the beat-down those goats gave the grass.

It's the epitome of pitiful.

To add insult to my lilac bush's injury...I looked out the front window and saw what I thought was a hummingbird going to town on my lilac florets. I saw the flutter of wings. Then that critter landed on my lilacs! Upon closer inspection, I saw that it was not a hummingbird, but a large butterfly.

So fragile are my lilacs (and I use the plural loosely), the gossamer weight of a butterfly made that single limb bow like a fiber-optic strand in one of those kid toys that change color. I fumed through the window glass. Shook my fist like a crusty curmudgeon growling at kids to get off his lawn. "Get off, you lout! You great humongous beast! You leviathan of the lepidoptera world! You crushing behemoth! You obese insect Ten Ton Tessie overfed arthropod!"

Okay. I admit that I was a bit out of control. But I was NOT foaming at the mouth. The lack of vigor in my sweet, sweet lilac limb was evident when the wind came whipping off the front four acres. The little lilac flagship was tossed violently by the gusts. The butterfly rode it like a champ, but was thrown after the eight seconds were up. He may just get a big belt buckle for his trouble.

My lilac bush, on the other hand, is not going to win any awards. Maybe the Charlie Brown Christmas tree will send it a condolence card.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Karma the Harsh Task-Mistress Joins Forces With Even Stephen to Crush the Dreams of Genius

Oh, the irony. Maybe. Because I STILL don't know what irony is. So maybe it isn't irony at all. You'll have to be the judge. But please refrain from being the jury and executioner, because I am not about to hand over the reins to that team at this juncture.

Genius came home for the second weekend in a row. His purpose was to develop some film, and print photos he did not have time for on Easter weekend. He brought along a friend from his hall who has an interest in photography, who takes photos, but sends them off for development instead of using Val's kitchen sink and the basement darkroom wired and outfitted by Genius.

I left the developers to their own devices, and headed to town for a 44 oz. Diet Coke, and some scratch-off tickets, since it's the weekend, and celebration was in order. When I returned, I walked through the kitchen door to discover Genius sitting on the kitchen table, swinging his hairy legs, watching his minion pour developer into a container, shake it, and whatnot. I am not well-versed in the development of film.

"Excuse me, sir, but your butt is on the table. Where people eat. Where I prepare food for consumption by others on assorted holidays."

"Yes. And my butt is right beside that Oreo cake."

"Well, I don't eat Oreo cake. So I'm not really concerned about that. Here. Put my purse on that chair, since you're using my kitchen counter. Wait. Let me get my lottery tickets."

"Lottery tickets? Give me one. Let me scratch it."

"No way."

"I turned in that dollar winner I got at Easter. It won a ticket. Then that one was a loser. Here. I have five ones. Give me one of those tickets."

"But I don't WANT to give you one of my tickets. I bought them with my cache of cash from previous winners."

"Here. Give me one of those."

"But that's the set I wanted the most! I don't want you to have one of those. Here. Take one of these." Let the record show that I had four five-dollar tickets, two of one kind, two of another.

"No. That's the one I want, right there. Give me the second one."

I put Genius's five ones in the side of my purse. He commenced to scratchin'.

"Hey! That ticket is a loser. I didn't win a thing!"

"Too bad, so sad. That's why it's called a LOTTERY. Not every ticket wins. And you're NOT getting a refund."

"Come on. You took my last five ones. I need ones. What if I want to go to a strip club?"

"Nope. You're a loser. And your dad would be quite proud to find out you've been to a strip club."

"He has no idea what I do. I can't believe you won't give me my money back."

Later in the afternoon, when Genius and friend had moved their development operation to the darkroom on the other side of the wall of my dark basement lair...I scratched my remaining three tickets. "Hey! Genius! I think you picked the wrong ticket. Look at this."

"WHAT? Are you kidding me! That is so unfair! Really? FIVE TIMES FIFTEEN DOLLARS? That's seventy-five dollars! I could have had seventy-five dollars!"

"Uh huh. You had a one-in-four chance, but you had to pick the tickets I didn't want you to have. You could have had a one-in-two chance, if you'd taken a ticket I WANTED you to have!"

"Don't rub it in. SEVENTY-FIVE DOLLARS!"

"Well, I suppose that's karma."

Yeah. How's your butt feel after that karma bite? I suppose he shouldn't have scoffed, "I don't really care about any of the people I graduated with" when I told him he'd never guess who was working at my credit union now. And perhaps he should not, upon being told that I'd left the couch blanket right where he'd left it crumpled on the floor, tossed it over in front of the TV and said, "Now I'm leaving it over there."

Funny how Genius picked up that blanket right before he left, and folded it on the back of the couch.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Let's Get This Repast Started

Today, we were all Tom Sawyer.

By we, I mean three of us at the teacher lunch table. Since nobody was crafty enough to bring a round of knitting needles for everyone, we had to devise a way to stay awake, to not nod off like Dorothy in a field of poppies on the yellow brick road to Oz. Nobody wants to wake up to screeching monkeys.

I will admit that I was the mastermind behind the plot. I was actually just doing my duty. Parking lot duty, in fact, from the day before. I had some sleuthing to complete. A bold scoff-rule driver has been motoring up the wrong parking aisles. I believe it is on purpose. Two weeks in a row is no accident. How can one be so totally oblivious to yellow arrows painted on blacktop? It's as if someone knows the right way, but deliberately chooses the wrong way. A motorized nose-thumbing, if you will. So I cast my line with the names of riders who were picked up by Wrong-Way Club Cab. I described the vehicle.

My left-hand gal, Tomato-Squirter, declared that she would boldly strut to the table of the riders, and ASK who picked them up. No nuanced finagling in that one's style. I argued that she could NOT simply strut over there and interrogate two in front of six others. That would let them know that something was afoot. We are quite outnumbered, you know. Sometimes surprise is the best tactic for information-gathering. We bickered back-and-forth for a few moments. My right-hand guy tried to worm his way into the mix by informing us that the very first YouTube video was now ten years old, and was called "Me at the Zoo." The fact that he is not a math teacher is glaringly evident, if you know anything about this video. Deflecting his pronouncement with a flick of the wrist, like a bothersome gnat, we continued our heated debate.

"I also saw that one guy go up the last row the wrong way. He had traffic for the softball field backed up. I don't know his name." I tried to describe him in my best Seinfeld movie-goers description. "'New kid, skinny jeans, thinks he's cute.' Can you believe nobody knew who I was talking about? And he drives a black truck. NO! He was NOT a parent picking someone up. He had backed into the last row, like all the trucks, and went up the wrong way on purpose to get out faster."

"Oh, that's Pretty Boy. In fact, I call him 'Cute.' Because I told him, 'You think you're cute, don't you, and he said, 'I AM cute.' I'll ask him if he went the wrong way."

"I don't think you should be doing that here in the cafeteria. Wait until they walk by in the hall."

By this time, the boring-talkers had stopped their discussion't know, don't care. They were dying to know what we were talking about. They leaned forward, open-mouthed. We could have easily put them on the case to identify the swimming-upstream culprits. Perhaps for a cup of sherbet, a drink of Coke, a promise to serve a day of duty. Because our conversation beat theirs all to not-heaven.

That is how it's done. Whisper-argue, and glance furtively at your intended canaries. Whether you make them sing or not is immaterial. It's the interrogation, not the confession, that drives us, that piques our curiosity. If the canary sings, that's just a feather in your cap.

Teachers can never have too many cap feathers.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Only Duty Kept Me There as Part of the Captive Audience

I know that I am not the most scintillating of conversationalists. Sometimes it is all I can do to nod and grunt. I try to keep my mouth shut if I don't have anything to contribute. And it seems rude to start up a whole new topic when two or three people at the teacher lunch table are really in the groove, discussing proper in-car eating etiquette, like how if you drop a fast-food sandwich on the floor of the car you just drove off the lot, it's pretty safe to eat, because the floor is NEW! It came from the factory, having been protected from mechanics' and salesmen's feet by a layer of cardboard for the five miles that are on the odometer.

Did you ever want to jab knitting needles in your eyes to put an end to a discussion?

Sometimes, there are two such scintillating conversationalists sitting side by side at the table of misfit stories. Two zippered-lip luncheoners who are counting the seconds on the clock, which seems to be moving backwards like the one in Joel's classroom in Risky Business.

I leaned over to my lunch cohort, Tomato-Squirter, and whispered, "I wish I had brought some paint so we could watch it dry."

Tomorrow, we will be prepared.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Are You the Keymaster?

When Genius came home for spring break, he had a bit of a mishap upon arrival. While unpacking the truckload of electronic accoutrements that are required to sustain him for eight days, he slammed his hand in the door of his Ford Ranger. Not so much his HAND as his keyring. The keyring that held the key to his dorm room and the suite he shares with three other young geniuses.

His truck key, his locking gas cap key, our house key, and his dorm room key were all fine. The suite key was not. He waited two days to show me the damage. "Look. It's twisted. I think I can make it work. I will push it in the lock, and when it stops, I'll rotate it so it goes in farther, and then keep doing that until I can unlock the door."

"I don't think locks work like that."

"Sure it will. The grooves are still in the right place. It's just twisted."

"I think you can probably flatten it out in a vice over in the BARn."

"That will break it. Look. It's not just bent. It's twisted. It's not in one plane like a vice could fix."

"You need to talk to your dad. Or you could just get another key made."

"Nobody will make these dorm keys. If I lose it or break it, I have to pay $150 for a new one."

"WHAT? One hundred fifty dollars for a KEY? That's highway robbery!"

"Well, they tell us that when they give us the key. Because if something happens to the key, they have to drill out the lock and replace it completely, and give out four new keys to the suitemates. To keep us safe."

"I'm sure your dad can get that key straightened. Especially when he hears about the $150."

That was the last I heard about it. Some things are in my domain, like the money, and other things are in Hick's domain. Like bending a twisted key back like new.

Over Easter weekend, Hick asked Genius how his key worked. I stuck around for the answer. "I'm guessing it did, because I did not get a charge of $150 on your student account statement."

"Actually, it worked, but I didn't want to take a chance on it every time, so I told the front desk that I locked myself out, and they gave me the spare key, and when I took it back, I gave them the twisted one. They didn't look at it. I told my suitemates that if they locked themselves out, to text one of us, or they'd need to be careful with that front desk key, to wiggle it until it went in. And it didn't cost me a thing!"

BRAVO! That's why we call him Genius.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

If Anybody Deserves a Trophy, It's Mrs. Thevictorian

Val has done it gain, folks. Let's start polishing that Nobel trophy. It DOES come with a trophy, doesn't it? Because who wants to win a Nobel Prize if there's no trophy? Not this ol' Val, that's for sure. That would be like one of those soccer trophies kids get when they're six. When everybody gets a trophy, just for being on the team. That's not for me. I am special.

Today I fixed two problems with technology in my very own classroom. Yep. You read that right. I did not merely solve one technological crisis, I solved TWO! Quick! You there! Here's a benjamin. Run out and buy some trophy polish. I want to have it ready for my award.

Things were running smoothly right up into sixth hour. Nary a problem. Young minds being stuffed with tidbits of work and force and simple machines and efficiency and mechanical advantage. And tiny-bit older minds feasting on a smorgasbord of homologous chromosomes, sister chromatids, meiosis, Gregor Mendel, pea plants, and the law of independent assortment. Then, between the end bell for sixth hour, and the tardy bell for seventh hour, that rainbow-and-unicorn-fest came to a screeching halt.

My DVD player emitted a noise best described as death throes from accidental choking. Not a whir, not a hum, not a grind...but a combination thereof. Without taking a breath. I tried to perform the DVD Heimlich by pushing in his power button, then his eject button, but Devie was having none of it. Believe me, it hurt me more than it hurt him. The kids gazed at me in horror. It was like hearing the screams of a rabbit being tossed and bitten by a dog not my sweet, sweet Juno.

To stop the insanity, I bravely reached into the tangled nest of 338,194,470 wires that lay coiled in disarray on the table behind my tower of electronic gewgaws at my corner control center. I turned that tower 90 degrees and found the umbilical wire that gave Devie life. Then I followed it to the lesser of the two power strips, and severed the connection. Devie wound down into blessed silence.

That little act of euthanasia accomplished, I put the tech tower back like it was and turned to take attendance, and cue up my textbook DVD for the projector, so we could hear the automated reader until I stopped her to emphasize important concepts. Don't worry. The textbook DVDs play through my laptop. The one I just fixed on Thursday, so it now charges to 100% when I leave it on the dock.

I introduced the lesson, explained a photograph, hit the icon to goose that reader into action...and silence deafened the room. WE HAD NO SOUND! What a monkey wrench that was! A conscientious volunteer began reading for us, while I fiddled about with my wires. I had a blue light on my sound amplifier. So I knew it had not been unplugged. I turned it off and back on. That sometimes works, you know. And I noticed that there was no crackle and pop like I'd been getting upon turning it on for months.

From past troubleshooting, my card-catalog mind pulled out the drawer concerning frayed copper wires screwed into a green plastic doodad on the back of the amplifier. I turned my tech tower 90 degrees again. Uh huh. The frayed copper of the red wire had come completely out of the green doodad. The frayed copper of the black wire held fast.

Our dear reader had finished the section. We discussed salient points, then I handed out the assignment. I called the office to see if they had a small flathead. The secretary told me I could come look at her selection. Au contraire. Not with a classroom full of high-spirited young learners. She asked if I had anybody smart to send in to choose my tool. "I don't know. Let me ask. Hey! Are any of you smart?" Three kids raised their hands. I went with the second one, since the first had forgotten her book this very day, which I think constitutes not winning the Smart Award on this occasion.

Tool-Fetcher brought me three humongous flatheads. I sent him back, with instructions to go down to the technology building for a better selection. He returned with just the right medicine. While he was gone, I showed half of a set of twins my severed copper, and discussed my plans for reconstructive surgery.

"Oh. I think, Mrs. Thevictorian, that instead of taking the whole green doodad off, you only need to unscrew that vertical screw right over the opening for the red-wire copper frays. Then you just screw that one down."

When my new surgical instrument arrived, I handed it to Helper. He had a bit of trouble straightening out the frays flatly, but soon had them installed in their slot. "There. I'm pretty sure that will work."

"Here. Let's test it. CLEAR! Get your hands off those wires. I'm charging the defibrillator. Wouldn't want to give you a shock." I turned on the amplifier. I thought I detected the tiniest of CLICKS from the speakers mounted on the front wall. I clicked my DVD textbook reading icon again. VOILA! Text to speech! "Hey, kids! The sound works! Now we can read it all over again!" Let's just say they were less than enthusiastic. Though they DID brighten up when I informed them that now they could watch five minutes of the Simple Machines video I had loaded from Learn 360.

Yes. Mrs. Thevictorian has solved THREE technology issues since Thursday. So what if she had a little help from a ninth-grader today. Can kids under 18 sue for a portion of the Nobel Prize? I don't think so.

I'm cleaning off a shelf for my future Nobel trophy.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Mine is Not to Reason Why, Mine is But to Eat and Die

Hey! My mom is at it again!

Yesterday she offered me the turkey breast carcass to take home to my sweet, sweet Juno. "He can have it, can't he? You give him bones like that?"

Okay. First of all, after almost two years now, and her the one who "gave" me that pup, knowing full well it was a female, even though Genius professed it to be a male so I would say we could have it...Mom still calls Juno a "he" every single time her name comes up.

Secondly, I don't know why Mom is all of a sudden concerned about what Juno eats, considering that the three days Juno spent at Mom's house, after being dumped off by ignoramuses at her mailbox, Juno ate exactly NOTHING. Because Mom thought if she didn't feed that tiny puppy that was too young to even be weaned, that it would A) learn to hunt and feed itself, or B) leave Mom's house and go to the neighbors across the road.

Thirdly, it's probably not a good idea to give a turkey breast carcass to a dog who lives with a real live turkey and (allegedly) pulls approximately fifty tail feathers out of the turkey in the driveway next to the garage while we are gone to work.

But Mom is a giving soul, so I told her that yes, I would take that turkey breast carcass home to Juno. "Where is it, in the fridge? I'll get it when we pack up our stuff to go home."

"Oh, no. It's out in the garage."

"Mom! It's a hundred degrees in the garage! That's going to stink."

"Well, it's not in my car. Just in the garage. And it's inside a big baggie. Gallon size."

"Last year, when you gave it to me a week or so after Thanksgiving, your turkey carcass, which had been INSIDE the FRIDGE, stunk so bad I almost passed out on top of Juno when I unwrapped it."

"Oh, it's not that hot out there. It will be fine."

As luck would have it, I went off and forgot Juno's carcass. Mom decided last night, on our bedtime phone call, that she would drop if off at school today before we started home. I was caught up with my work, and planning to leave within fifteen minutes. The Pony went out to the car to get his laptop, and got the carcass from Mom to put in our T-Hoe. He said Mom didn't want to come in, since we would be leaving shortly. Huh. Best-laid plans. I discovered some homebound work clogging my mailbox, and decided to get that graded and recorded. Then I had to ready some new assignments to send back. So it actually took me about a half hour before I was ready to leave.

"Hey, Pony. That carcass is going to stink up the car by the time we get out there."

"No it won't. Grandma put it in a cooler."

We hopped in T-Hoe. There was no odor. Good for Mom. I stopped for gas. We had to wait for an available pump, because the price had gone down TWO CENTS PER GALLON since yesterday, and of course the pumps were jammed by bargain hunters. I sent The Pony in to pay. He grabbed a soda to go with the Domino's pizza he wanted for supper. It's Hick's bowling night, and I was having leftovers from yesterday's feast. Traffic was heavy along the boulevard by the gassing up place. We waited. We puttered along the back road by the lake to get to Domino's. I missed my left turn light in town because the car in front of me had the audacity to wait for a left turn into the drive-thru liquor store parking lot, thus blocking my lane before I could whiz through that light. We picked up The Pony's pizza. We stopped for the mail. We admired a new NO TRESPASSING sign on our gravel road, all routered out on dark wood, with the letters painted yellow. We paused in the driveway for The Pony to point out that the remains of my goat-decimated lilac bush sprout had tufts of leaves that made it look like a just-trimmed poodle. Then we pulled into the garage and gathered our belongings.

"Hey, Mom. I'll come back out and get Juno's carcass. Here. Do you think you could carry in this ham?"

"HAM? Where did you get HAM?"

"Grandma brought it for you. Since we were leaving soon, I just left it in the car."

"HAM? Are you sure it's not for the dogs?"

"No. It's for you. For sandwiches, Grandma said."

"So that ham has been laying in this black car in the sun ever since Grandma came to school about...oh...NINETY MINUTES AGO?"

"Uh huh. But that's okay. She said it was. Because it's ham."

"And you didn't think to put it in the cooler?"

"No. Grandma just handed me the baggie of ham. She said the cooler was for the carcass."

As the full horror sinks in, let me further state that yesterday, after dinner, when everything else had been put away, Mom said, "Do you think it's okay to leave out that ham? It's wrapped in foil."

"No, Mom. I think it should go in the fridge, too. You don't know when people will want to eat again, or others will drop in."

She grudgingly put it away. Seriously. I know the pioneers let their hams hang in the woodshed for months. And that flies might have lighted on them and done their no-good fly business of propagating their young. And that pioneers did not have refrigerators. And that pioneers carved away the mold and still ate that ham.

Val is not a pioneer.

Right now, that ham is in Frig alongside yesterday's ham that I brought home straight from the refrigerator at Mom's house and put away immediately. Or IS it?

Hick hollered down before he left for bowling and announced that he had fixed himself some ham and potato salad and deviled eggs.

I'm not sure which one of us was Mom's target.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Hot Time In the Old House Today

Excuse me while I wipe my brow with an old red bandana pulled from the back pocket of my overalls, and wring out the sweat in order to wipe the other brow. Oh. Wait. That was my grandpa, after a scorching August day of working in the cool underground lead mines until 3:00, then weeding the upper garden, hoeing a hill of potatoes, twisting some fat red tomatoes off the vine, then plucking some roastin' ears from the lower garden garden for supper, as Grandma turned the chicken pieces frying in the cast-iron skillet of Crisco, and sizzled bacon for grease to pour over the greens she dug out of the yard, so she and Grandpa could have a sit-down meal together before she hustled off to her night job as an aide at State Hospital Number Four.

What I meant to say was...I am just now recovering from the heat stroke I suffered silently at my mom's house for Easter dinner. Don't get me wrong. I LOVE my mom. She's a selfless lady, sometimes even slipping me five dollars here and there, who never complains, and would do anything for her children and grandchildren.

I, however, take after my father. I cannot change my spots. I am never happy, unless it's while I'm in the midst of ranting about some real or imagined slight or stroke of misfortune. That's my nature. I apologize half-heartedly to all the Pollyannas who would wish to be my Professor Henry Higgins and turn me into a cockeyed optimist. Not gonna happen. I bear the instigators of my misery no ill will. It's me. Not them. That said, let's get on with our story...

What a beautiful day we had here in our secret, secluded section of Missouri. The sun shone brightly, grass was at its greenest, a few puffy clouds in the sky, and a temperature of 81 degrees. Perfect, right? Perfect for hunting Easter eggs outside, if one so desired. Perfect for travel, like Genius back to college. Not perfect for eating the main meal in the house that baked the ham and turkey with no air conditioning to cool the kitchen eating area.

Oh, there was nothing WRONG with the air conditioning. Mom just doesn't like to turn it on before August. It's a game with her every year. "It doesn't really get that hot. I don't notice the heat. I'm comfortable downstairs." Uh huh. Except we were not downstairs. We were in the kitchen. I couldn't stand the heat, yet I couldn't get out of the kitchen. Are you crazy? That's where the FOOD was!

Mom knew it was hot in her house. When we arrived, we saw that she had opened a kitchen window. Yes. A kitchen window. But she had not put up the storm window. And Hick found the other one stuck shut by the black rubber weatherstripping. So we had one window half-way open, with no cross-breeze because Mom's front door is a glass storm door. She brought up a little fan thingy that looks like a post that rotates. After the prayer, after we all filled our plates, as we were sitting down to eat, there was Mom, lugging an ancient box fan from the basement, through the family room, up the steps, through the kitchen, into the dining room where the grandkids eat. Poor grandkids. They had a window, but when they offered to open it, Mom said, "That window has never opened since we built his house back in 1970."

Oh, she knew. Why in the world she could not just flick that thermostat from OFF to COOL, I'll never know. You'd think she woulda had to prime a pump, go to the icehouse and sweep sawdust off a big block of lake ice, tear off the roof shingles, or saw a hole in to floor for sucking cool air up from the basement.

What is with these septuagenarians? Seventy-eight degrees is too hot for a full meal at a family gathering. It's not going to break the bank to run the air conditioner for three hours on Easter Sunday. Not that Mom doesn't have the money. As Hick likes to say, "Your mom has enough money to burn a wet mule."

I'm not sure who I should mention first in my informational call to State Hospital Number Four...Mom, or Hick.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Yeah, I Think I'll Give it a Whirl

Have you recently experienced a dark and stormy night? Somewhere, in the distance, did a dog bark? And if so, were you moved to write about it? All in one sentence?

Have you thought about entering your flowery prose in the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest? So what if the official deadline was April 15th--the ACTUAL deadline is June 30th. Still plenty of time. No need to dilly-dally right up to the absolutely positively very last day.

I don't mean to put on airs, but I think, perhaps, my style of writing just might be compatible with what those Bulwer-Lytton folks are looking for. Can I not write a long-winded, serpentine-winding, circuitous sentence like a champ? Where else will this talent be valued, if not by the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest?

You can check out last year's winners here. If that doesn't get you motivated, then somebody needs to release a colony of agitated ants under your rumpus. It's not like you have to write a whole novel to go with your first sentence. A mere 50 or 60 words will do the trick. And there's NO ENTRY FEE! One guy even submitted over 3,000 entries! Now, I will be the first to admit there is the brink of insanity, and then there is the abyss, and 3,000 seems like somebody has stumbled over that brink and is plummeting towards infinity. Oh. Wait! I am SECOND to admit that abyss thingy, because first was Andrew McCarthy to Demi Moore in St. Elmo's Fire.

I'm not suggesting that you write 42.25 entries per day from now until June 30th. Just a couple here and there. You can submit electronically by email. There are even different categories. I'm not suggesting you are all writers of bad fiction. Simply that this could be fun. If you don't feel like it, don't do it. No skin off my bulbous nose. Better odds for ME!

I hope this isn't like that annual faculty golf tournament my friend Jim and I entered when I taught at another school district. The one where we were SO bad that we finished next-to-last. Right out of the money that the very worst team won for being most sucky.

Start building a fence around that abyss. Just in case I get off my ample behind and put butt in chair to pour my heart and soul into this, and then miss out on winning the grand prize pittance.

Friday, April 18, 2014

And Now, the Curtain Reveal Fanny Hugg

I didn't grow up in Mayberry, Mayfield, or on Walton's Mountain. I was, however. allowed to run wild, run free from the time school let out in May until it resumed in August. Seven homes adorned our block, and five of them housed children in my age group. Sometimes we were a roving gang, all for one and one for all. Other times, it was all-out war, boys versus girls.

Guys can be so BARBARIC! Like that time the young Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals smashed the clay pottery we girls had worked so hard to craft, digging clay from the creek bed, sorting out the pebbly bits, shaping bowls and vases, and painting them with watercolors. Yes, left on the end of my patio to dry, they were mere shards when we returned from a trip to town. There was none of this Twitter-feuding and lawsuit-filing and bullying-claim nonsense that fills the news these days. We simply vowed revenge, and found a better place to cure our pottery.

One activity in which we joined forces was downhill racing. Not that there was an actual race, mind you. The concrete sidewalk was only wide enough for one vehicle at a time. We took turns, and used the distance traveled and the magnitude of the crash to judge speed. The race started at the top of the hill in front of my grandpa's house. We provided most of the vehicles. Bikes were left at home. They were for street-riding.

The favorite racer was a pedal-car fire engine, with wooden ladders on racks on each side. Fire Engine was not fast. It had a built-in coolness factor. It was grand to ride on, but did not steer well. Perhaps because the rider on the back sometimes caused the front wheels to lose contact with the sidewalk. The big red tricycle was also popular, because it went fast (as long as the person on the seat held their legs out from the pedals and let them spin), and the one riding on the back could stand comfortably, yet jump off before a crash. The smaller, blue tricycle was a single-rider vehicle, and lacked the handlebar streamers of the big red one. The daredevil contingent preferred the Radio Flyer, once red, but picked up at a garage sale sporting a coat of baby blue. Blue Flyer was tricky. You had to coerce a smaller passenger to sit in the front, then give it a big push and jump in like a bobsledder, wrapping your legs around the passenger, and grabbing the steering column out of their panicked clutches.

The racetrack itself would not meet today's OSHA standards. Lining the left side were assorted yards, some with a little drop at the edge, some with a hill that could act as a ramp for sending a racer into an inadvertent barrel roll. Running parallel, on the right flank, was a ditch. Not just any old ditch. An open sewer ditch. That meant nothing to us, of course, kings and queens of our eight-year-old world, until we hit ninth grade and attended the consolidated high school, where we learned that our town was called "Sewer City." Which was only a little bit more pleasant than "Moosec*ck, our other nickname.

At the bottom of the hill was a culvert. It was kind of like this, but with only one opening, a stream barely as wide as the tunnel, and houses on each side. Oh, and no men standing on top.

Of course there were no rails, nothing to keep a kid on a fast-moving downhill racer from careening off the side. And to encourage such careening, the concrete of the sidewalk was all broken and crumbling where it passed across the culvert. That's why we made a habit of yanking hard left into Lewis's yard just before we reached the culvert. That, and what lay on the other side of the culvert...


In all likelihood, her name was probably "Fannie." But not in our eight-year-old minds. As you can imagine, it was a rite of passage to stand in front of Fanny Hugg's house, and chant her name. Seriously. What eight-year-old kid can resist hollering "Fanny Hugg" with glee? It's as good as yelling, "Who FARTED?" instead of inquiring, "Did somebody let a stinker?"

Various styles were employed. The girls usually giggled, and said in a conversational tone, "Fanny Hugg, Fanny Hugg, Fanny Hugg!" The boys took it several steps further. Sometimes they turned and pointed their own fanny at her house, even slapping their cheeks for emphasis. On occasion, if one felt particularly full of himself, he might run up her sidewalk and put a foot on her porch before shouting her name! Of course he darted back to the safety of the public sidewalk immediately, before Fanny Hugg could open up her door. We were certain she could not harm us on public property.

Fanny Hugg did not hesitate to let us know of her displeasure. She was probably in her early forties, maybe even late thirties, but to us, she was ancient. And old hag. Old bat. Old witch. A kid-hater. Nobody EVER went a-knockin' on Fanny Hugg's door at Halloween. Even if she had put on her porch light to entice us, we would not have gone. Whenever I heard the story of Hansel and Gretel, I thought of Fanny Hugg shoving kids into her oven. Fanny Hugg had short kinky hair like she had just given herself a Toni home perm and not combed it out. She was not an attractive woman, being short and stout and pale and thick-eyebrowed. She stopped short of shaking her fist at us, but she had that you-kids-get-off-my-lawn attitude. "Go on home now. Leave me alone. Stay out of my yard." A simple request, really.

Of course we could not leave like that. "It's a free country. This sidewalk is public property. We can stand here if we want to." Yeah. The guys. Their mouths writing checks that Fanny couldn't cash. We WERE on public property. What was Fanny Hugg going to do? She couldn't call the police for such a miniscule offense. She couldn't turn the hose on us. She couldn't grab us all by the ear and march us home. If she had come out to knock on our doors and talk to our parents, we would have followed her, mocking every step, the boys most likely acting like apes and picking imaginary lice from their armpits to toss into their open mouths for imaginary chewing.

Fanny Hugg knew we had her number.

I don't know why we delighted so in tormenting that poor woman. She kept to herself, and only wanted to peep out her venetian blinds to watch the world go by without looking over a throng of barefoot kids with sticky trails of melted cherry snowcone juice down their dusty bare chests. The boys. Not us girls. We were shirted, and not dribblers.

Fanny Hugg, I apologize for the angst we generated. I know how you must have felt. Because now I am just like you.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Lunch Caters to the Young

We have a new delicacy in the Backroads High cafeteria. Not that I've tasted it myself, of course. I'm a lunch-bringer. But my cohorts ate it. They didn't even know how very special it was, until the first bite.

"Whew! That broccoli is spicy!"

"Yes, it is rather strong."

"Since when did we get cheese on our broccoli?"

"This is nacho cheese!"

Of course the rest of us chorused: "It's NOT YO CHEESE!" Because we're not mature. Not ready. Can't act like adults yet.

Perhaps the palate of the young is different from the palate of the old. But I think a more practical approach would be to drench that broccoli with syrup.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

You Almost Got Fanny Hugg

Alas, my creativity has ebbed. Seems like only a few moments ago it was flowing out my fingertips in comment responses. But now it has forsaken me. The genie is out of the bottle, and it ain't goin' back in. I guess the bottle of the creativity genie does not bear the slightest resemblance to the bottle of Major Nelson's Jeannie.

It's a shame, too. I was all set to tell you a little story about Fanny Hugg. Doesn't that make you want to run out with buckets and bowls and saucepans and spittoons and chamber pots, to capture the fast-flowing lost creativity of Val before it seeps into the ground, down to the creativity table, where it will remain until tapped by a well drilled by someone in desperate need of creativity? Like Val!

If only I could store my creativity in Tupperware in my neighbor's freezer until I need it. Then I wouldn't have to worry about losing too much creativity, and being rendered dry and droll like a Backroads Hick.

Perhaps I should write my posts before tending to comments.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Maybe I Can Set Up a Punch and Judy Stage Where Her TV Used To Be

My mom paid a surprise visit to school today. She usually does not drop in on me. Even though it was after hours, a whole FIVE minutes after the dismissal bell, I was a bit apprehensive.

One does not drop in with good news. Not even my mom. So I figured something was wrong, or she'd done something she wanted to confess. First I thought perhaps she had backed her Blazer into a garage support. Or let workmen into her house without checking their credentials. I was not so much concerned about her health, because I knew she did not have a doctor's appointment, and she exhibited no cuts, no bruises, no blood, no limp.

Mom has been wanting to dump her cable provider. She has her phone, TV, and internet all through the same company. Now she's got a bee in her bonnet because some big change is coming up. To hear Mom tell it, they're going completely digital, and will have a thousand channels. Mom does not want a thousand channels.

"I have not been happy with them for quite a while. I am going back to AT&T for my phone, and getting DISH Network for my TV, and only keeping the cable for the fast internet that The Pony likes."

"Mom. You don't have to have a thousand channels."

"Well, that's what it said. I have enough trouble with the ones I have now. I don't know the numbers. I click through to get to what I want. It's bad enough with 50 channels."

"Mom. You can program your remote for the ones you want. I'm sure Genius could do it when he's home."

"No. I'm going to see what AT&T has. I might even get internet from them, too. I'm going over to the store to talk to them and tell them what I want."

That was on Monday. As you might imagine, the plan did not quite solve Mom's problem.

"I don't know any more now than when I went over there. This man was very nice, but he had no idea what I wanted. And he kept asking me what I paid my cable company. Then he said he'd need to see my cable bill. and I thought, 'He doesn't have any business looking at my cable bill.' So I told him I'd think about it, and I left."

"Huh. He's probably wanting to see what you paid for cable, and offer you a plan for a few dollars less."

"I think so. Why else would he need to see my bill?"

Today, Mom was all flustered. "I just came by to tell you what I've done. I called DISH Network to see about getting a dish installed for my TV. I told them how much you like yours, and we went through everything that I need, got it all set up, and then the man asked for my credit card information. So I told him, 'I don't have a credit card. I'm not going to pay by credit card. I want to get a bill in the mail and pay it by check.' But he kept saying he couldn't give me an account without a credit card. So I told him he would have to, because I don't have one. And he said, 'Don't you have a daughter?' And I told him yes, that I would talk to you, and he said he would call me back this afternoon."

"Yeah. That's how they are. It's probably about the receivers."

"Yes. He said he needs a credit card so they can make sure I return their receivers. But the more I thought about it, the more I think, 'Why should YOU be responsible for my DISH bill?' And I'm just going to tell him that he must not want my business very much if he can't find a way to get me service without a credit card."

"It's not that I don't trust you, Mom, but I don't really want your account linked to my credit card. If you really want it, I'll do it. But I just want you to know I'd rather not."

"Oh, I agree."

"They can send a man out with the dish and the receivers, and he can take a check. Or cash. Then their receivers are paid for. If they really want your business, I think they can find a way. What they really want is a credit card so they can automatically charge you every month for your service. They've tried for years to get us to do that, and I won't. I want that paper bill, and I'll pay it and know when it's been paid. Not risk an 'error' where too much is charged, or too many months, or their accounts are hacked, or some other little problem. OnStar and SiriusXM Radio try to do that, too. Nope. Not for me. I make them bill me, I write a check, and I've been getting my service. I'd barter with them for a basket of eggs if I thought I could get away with it."

"Well, I just wanted you to know, in case they call you, that I did mention that you already had DISH."

"Great, Mom! Now they know I have a credit card! If they call me, I'm going to say, 'I never heard of that lady. She's trying to scam you.' I'm sure that will help you get your DISH. This is like when we went to get Genius his first iPhone. We waited about an hour in that store, then got the order all written up, and they wanted my credit card. I told them I was paying cash. Nope. Can't take cash. Can't take check. Can't take debit. Credit card or no iPhone. I used my credit card, because it was for Genius, and he was almost starting to cry after waiting so long for an iPhone. The old man and lady with the other clerk got to that credit card point, and the man said, 'Forget it!' and they walked out. I wished that was me."

"I am going to find a way to get rid of my cable some way. But when that DISH man calls me back, I'm going to tell him never mind. I'm not using a credit card."

Neither of us has quite recovered from that big TV antenna withdrawal in 2009.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Val Firmly Believes That a Need-To-Know Basis Should Be a Two-Way Street

Genius sent me a text this morning that he would be calling this evening to get information. Did you get that? Genius was seeking MY input on INFORMATION. Uh huh. I'm not as stupid as I used to be, it seems, when he lived under my roof.

The information needed concerned how to fill out a W-4 form. Genius has an RA position locked up for next year. Not that it pays in cash, just a pittance each semester, with the big payoff coming in room and board. Still, he needed a W-4 and proof that he can work in this country legally. He also has a summer job lined up in the city. This is where it gets dicier. He will be making $20/hour, 40 hours/week, for most of the summer. His total earnings will be just under the amount that requires filing a tax return. So...he wanted advice.

I do taxes for the Thevictorian family, but Hick is more knowledgeable on the W-4s. I always consult him when one rears its head. So I had Genius in my left ear on the house phone, and Hick in my right ear on my cell phone as he was driving home from work. Let's just say neither of those two can take a hint. Can conform to social cues. Like waiting until a person is done talking to put in their own two cents.

It started out all right. "Genius, I'm going to ask your dad. Just a minute." Then after Hick's input, "Okay. Let me tell him." That worked for about two sentences. Then I felt like Larry Kroger, Pinto to his Animal House buddies, upstairs with his supermarket girlfriend, an angel on one shoulder, a devil on the other, both talking to him at once. Only I was not getting information on how to take advantage of my passed-out date, and I did not have a handful of tissues that fell out of her foundation garment.

"I can't do this! You KNEW I was talking to him. You could hear me. Why did you start spouting off again? You always do that! Talk when the other person is talking! I'm done."

"Fine. I'll call him myself."

Yeah. That's what we needed. Hick the one-eyed, inattentive, master sweaver on a back country road dialing Genius with one hand. So that's how Genius got his information.

I can't believe he has not yet responded to my request for input on why I can't open docx files anymore. You'd think one hand would wash the other, now wouldn't you? But I scratched Genius's back, and he won't scratch mine.

Someone got a dirty hand out of this deal, and I think it's me.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Hick is Under My Skin Like Termites in a Creek Log

Hick has been quite productive today. By his standards, anyway. He has managed to get under my skin TWICE! Okay, thrice if you count this morning when I blamed him for the fitted sheet pulling off my side of the bed because he wallows and spins and wraps up in it like a burrito every night, and he had the audacity to proclaim, "I ain't done nothin'! I'm just layin' here!" I find it hard to believe that a wanna-be magician wandered in overnight, stood at Hick's side of the bed, and yanked that fitted flannel sheet from under us like a fancy linen tablecloth from under the china and silver at a four-star restaurant.

Next cat out of the bag, I caught Hick dragging a trunk under the porch. Okay, that's not as sinister as it might sound. Technically, Hick's oldest son, a regular adult wearing overalls and starting to look like Hick, drove that big tree trunk across the front yard in his truck, and backed it up to the front porch, where he and Hick dragged it out and put it at the corner by the downspout, near my rose bush.

I questioned Hick as to the thought processes that went into putting an old rotting tree trunk up under a wooden wraparound porch on a cedar home. Hick seems to think that his very special tree trunk that he dragged from the creek is not full of termites that will delight in a smorgasbord that will keep their family fat and sassy for generations to come. "There's no termites in that tree trunk! I got it out of the creek! You could see them if there were termites in it." So sayeth the self-appointed termite inspector. I'm waiting for him to adorn his very special tree trunk with an eternal flame that licks just shy of contact with the bottom board of the porch.

Hick made a shocking discovery on the way to the creek to get his very special tree trunk. We have surprise chickens! Three newly-hatched chicks, which were not expected yet, even though Hick knows he has hens sitting, just not where, or for how long. He usually catches one sitting in the chicken house, and stuffs a couple of days worth of eggs up under her. From that point, it takes 21 days for the little peckers to bust out. Hick wants to put them up in a separate pen until they are a bit bigger, but he can't catch the momma.

Oh, and according to Hick, "YOUR DOG TRIED TO EAT MY CHICKS!" Yeah. Right. My sweet, sweet Juno trying to eat fluffy fresh baby chicks? I don't think so. Upon further interrogation, Hick reported that he caught Juno SNIFFING THE NEW CHICKS. "She had her nose right up against them!" Um. That's what dogs do. Sniff things. Other dogs' anuses. Men's crotches. Groceries set on the side porch to await carrying in by a 16-year-old. Just-hatched chicks. Dogs don't eat everything they sniff. Laws, no! M-O-O-N. That spells we'd be in a world of trouble if dogs ate everything they sniffed, because other dogs would have no anuses, and men would have no crotches, and people would starve to death.

I will not believe Juno was trying to eat baby chicks unless I discover her with tiny feathers clinging to her gums, and three chicks seem to be missing. TRYING to eat baby chicks? If she wanted to eat them, they would already be eaten. Hick is not so powerful that his gaze falling upon her in the act would stop my sweet, sweet Juno from chickicide.

I'm sure Juno will be Hick's best friend when he grills steaks later this evening. I hope the deck does not collapse under them due to weakening by termite jaws.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Scratch-Off Tale From the Gas Station Chicken Store

Val has had many unique adventures here in Backroads. Many unique adventures involving fellow customers at establishments she frequents. Indeed. She has been caressed by a woman in Save A Lot. Had her buttocks molested by a geezer's arm in the dead-mouse-smelling post office. Was propositioned by a ZZ-Top-bearded, Daisy-Dukes-wearing man of questionable oral hygiene on the parking lot of Walmart. Had a roll of cash thrust at her by a friendly, generous, inattentive man while boxing her groceries at Save-A-Lot. Suffered verbal overfamiliarity from a dude who yelled, "That's ever man's dream!" when she asked for two breasts and two thighs at the gas station chicken store.

And it's the gas station chicken store that calls us back today. The scene of the latest indignity to befall our heroine, Val of Backroads.

Perhaps I've mentioned that I do not have a fondness for other people's children. Unless I am responsible for them in a supervisorly educational role, I have no interest in them. Seen and not heard. There's a reason for that idiom. It was not coined by idiots. I would like to coin my own idiom. "Children should be left outside in a well-ventilated car with proper adult supervision, and not brought into convenience stores." Not quite so catchy as "seen and not heard." But quite as serviceable.

I had stopped in for a 44 oz. Diet Coke and a scratch-off ticket. Yes, I DID win, as a matter of fact. Fifty dollars on a ten dollar ticket. But I didn't know that until later. Because, you see, I was fighting for my life against an eight-year-old girl in the gas station chicken store. Or at least for my hide.

A man was already at the Coke machine. He looked at it, and moved on down the counter towards the back cooler, to the coffee machine. Had he asked, I might have suggested something stiffer. But Val is not one to give unsolicited advice to strangers in convenience stores. That guy had three little girls with him. They all called him Daddy. Stair steps, they were. I'm guessing 8, 7, 6, though I am not well-versed in the sizes and cognitive skills of youngsters much under the age of 12.

The girlies swarmed around those three aisles like a working drug-sniffing canine, an ant checking out a dessert buffet, and a goldfish in a just-tapped aquarium. DaddyO seemed a bit frazzled. Eight suddenly appeared to my left, at the section where one orders gas station chicken, though the kitchen was closed, it being only 10:00 a.m. She eyed the plastic-lid-covered tray of donuts. "I never saw a donut for only eighty-nine cents, Daddy." He sighed and pressed the lid onto his coffee. "Well, then, you must not have been in many convenience stores." The other girlies swarmed him and grabbed his legs, asking for assorted treats. I moved on to the counter with my refill.

A new clerk was training. Her minder left her to go in the kitchen, perhaps to drop a batch of chicken. The characteristic aroma did not yet permeate the store. Trainee was slow. She had to look up the price of a refill. She had trouble tearing my scratcher ticket off the roll. DaddyO and his brood were behind me. And beside me. I daresay I'm lucky they were not up in my buttocks like that post office geezer's arm.

The minder came out to the other register. "Can I help you over here?" DaddyO stepped up. That, to his litter, was an invitation to belly up to the short counter. As if they, too, were paying customers. DaddyO had caved, and was buying them a bag of chips to share. "Five dollars for a bag of chips?" The minder was not helping the situation. I'm thinking his total was five dollars, not just the chips. But that is neither here nor there, because Eight was HERE. Right under my left armpit. Jostling me. Bumping me. Stabbing me with her youthful elbow that had not yet acquired a cushion of fat to soften the jab of skin-over-bone. I moved away. She followed, as though attached by a safety chain.

Twice more she jabbed me. Then she commenced to scratching her angular elbow. AND SCRAPED SEVERAL FINGERNAILS WORTH OF SKIN OFF MY PLUSH OLD-LADY ARM! I've endured less damaging swipes from my ungrateful garage-peeing cats.

There needs to be a law. under 16 must be carried through stores by their parents. That would be much safer for victims like me. What if some mishap were to befall that child over the next 24-48 hours, and Val's skin cells were found under her fingernails? I could be framed for ne'er-do-well-ness!

Yeah. There oughta be a law.

Friday, April 11, 2014

You're Not Getting Older, You're Getting Tireder

Val is tired tonight, my friends. Tired, like a marathon runner named Jean-Paul whose alarm was thwarted by a fuse blown by a hot tub.

Getting to school today was a bit like crossing the wide prairie with my lover Ike, two yoke of oxen, one spotted hog, a tall Shanghai rooster, and an old yeller dog. There was road resurfacing on two of the three ways I can get there. The third way is really not an option, miles out of my way, through territory of which I am unfamiliar. I guess I could do it if it meant losing my job. But it didn't, so I took the second of the two work zones. Val does not like disorder and change. It's draining.

Just walking from T-Hoe on the school parking lot into the building proper was a Herculean task. Halfway up the sidewalk, I wanted to lay down in the newly-sprouted blades of grass around the downspout. Who would know? Besides everybody watching me on the camera, and those faculty who pulled up after I sank into a Rip Van Winkle slumber. I was as drowsy as Dorothy in a field of poppies. It was as if Morpheus himself had hopped onto my back and wrapped his arms around me. Commercial Lunesta moths circled my head like stars around the noggin of a poorly-skilled cartoon boxer.

Now that I'm getting on in years, perhaps five hours of sleep per night is not quite enough.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I Shall Be the Last Comedian Standing...Even if it Means I Have to Gillooly My Opponent

Sometimes, Hick thinks he's a real comedian.

I sent him a text this afternoon, about the time he leaves work for home. I was stuck at school waiting for The Pony's academic practice to end. Hick called me back. I figured he was driving, because that man is a texting fool. How he does it at all with those stubby fingers and thumbs is beyond me.

So I sent him that text, just to check on him. You never know when he might suddenly forget to breathe in and breathe out. Or forget the way home. He's for sure not asking directions, so I try to practice preventative Hick maintenance. Who's gonna pry the goat heads out of the fence if Hick forgets to perform his activities of daily life?

"Have you left yet?"

"Yes. I'm almost to Backroads. I'm going to get my shot."

"Oh. We haven't left yet. You might beat us home."

"Yeah. I might."

"Do you have school tomorrow?"

Hick giggled like a schoolgirl. "Noooo...Val. I don't have school tomorrow."

"I mean do you have WORK tomorrow! The Pony said you were taking off. And to me, school IS work."

"Yes, I'm taking the day off Friday so I won't have to work Saturday, because I want to go to The Pony's district academic meet."

Hmpf! Hick knew darn-tootin' what I meant! Of course he doesn't have school. If Hick had school, he would be in detention most of the time for his shenanigans. Like the time he set a fire in the wastebasket in the back of the vo-tech bus. "But Val...we didn't have any heat. We were cold. So we decided we'd make out OWN heat, by cracky! I got several days out of school for that one. We didn't have a phone, and my dad was blind, and my mom was in the I just got up every morning and went and sat in the woods until time to go home. Good thing the cold snap was over!"

That's my Hick. The sooner he learns that this family can have only ONE comedian, that being me...the better off his life will be. In the meantime, he might want to pick up some knee pads at the auction.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I'll Take Geysers For 40, Mrs. Thevictorian.

I hosted a science knowledge tournament in my classroom yesterday. All textbook and no shenaniganning make for a very long school day. We use a science magazine periodically throughout the year. Think of your Weekly Reader, only all sciency, and for high school students. The kids like it because they learn many new things from current happenings in the world of science. I like it because it always has a balance of the different branches, and it relates stories to the major concepts we cover.

Normally, I challenge the class to beat my score in an online science Jeopardy-style game. I answer all questions without ever opening up the magazines. Then they get a chance. Occasionally, one class might eke out a victory. Not often, though, because Val is, after all, a professional. A jack-of-all-science-branches. (Shh...I can't use that kind of expression around the kids). There is no truth to the rumor that I am now pitting student against student because I can't take a trouncing. As if!!! I even scored a perfect 400 on this week's issue.

We played two preliminary rounds, and then a championship match and a consolation match. I have every student's name on a colored index card. I use them throughout the year to pick students to answer questions, to put them in groups for labs, and to choose partners for collaborative learning. For the teams, I discussed the rules while shuffling those cards over and over. Then I deal out four stacks, face down. Because I know how kids will react, I first preface each card-partnering session with: "Let's remember that we will not show excessive emotion. No euphoria. No despair. These are not your life partners for eternity. They are your 40-minute partners for this one day. Now here are your teams..."

Kids will try to infiltrate a team with their buddies. So I read off a whole team, and tell them where to sit. Then I watch them go to that spot. You can't let them mill or mingle. I name the teams, because I do not recall fondly that day when a team chose "The Narcoleptic Otters," and one sleepy aquatic weasel asked, "Do you know how to spell that?" as I wrote the name on the board. Puhlease! What valedictorian cannot spell otter?

"This team is the Doors. You will sit by the door. Next, we have the Pencil Sharpeners. You will sit by the Pencil Sharpener. No. You may NOT be the Windows. I can see right through your little plan. I choose the names here. Okay, back here in front of my desk, we have the Desks. Uh uh. You are NOT Bookcases. You are DESKS! Embrace your Deskness. And over there, in the last corner, are the Microwaves. You know, in front of the microwave. Has everybody got it?"

It took a few moments for the teams to decide on official spokesmen and a number between 1 and 60 to determine opponents and game order. The Pencil Sharpeners bluntly declared that they were not all that sharp, and they were a bit concerned about going up against their rivals, the Doors. "But Mrs. Thevictorian! How fair is that? The Doors are open to many new opportunities. And we are just dull." After being told not to knock the Doors, the Pencil Sharpeners settled down to grind out a victory.

The Desks went about their match in an upright, workmanlike manner, with their feet planted firmly on the ground. They knew their opponents, the Microwaves, were really cookin'. As luck would have it, the three top brains ended up on the same team. One of the questions was, "Which has the longest wavelenth: X-rays, ultraviolet radiation, or microwaves?" The Microwaves got it right. "We knew that answer, Mrs. Thevictorian! We knew that question would come up, and that we would get it right. Because WE are the Microwaves!"

A limnologist does not study tree limbs. (inland waters)
The melting point is not the temperature at which a liquid becomes a gas. (boiling point)
Cerumin is not saliva. (earwax)
The preferred food of the black-footed ferret is not insects. (prairie dogs)
The first living thing to orbit Earth was not a chimp. (dog)

In the future, I may put a group right up front by the white board, and call them the Blank Slates. Think of the possibilities.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Now Appearing in "Front Window"

My mom is a regular Agent 99, a Natasha Fatale, an Emma Peele, a Secret Squirrel. Who knew she has been spying on the guy across the road? Not me. Not him. Until she let it slip the other day, when I asked if that guy ever got the fallen tree out of his driveway. This is the neighbor my mom said she would NOT take food to, even if he was blocked in by that fallen tree, because "He has a wife!" And therefore deserves to starve, or can use her as a Donner snack.

"So, did that man ever get the tree out of his driveway?"

"Not exactly. He's been working at it. I feel sorry for him."

"Not sorry enough to lend him your chainsaw."

"No. I don't even know if that chainsaw works. But he must not know anyone with a chainsaw, because he has been out there sawing at that big tree with just a hand saw. He's got most of it out of the way. He can drive off the edge of his driveway and go around the big trunk."

"You would have thought he'd call somebody by now and have it hauled away, or cut up."

"Well, you would think so. But he still goes out with the hand saw. I really don't think he can get the rest of it by himself. With a hand saw. It looks really hard to try and cut through that big part."

"I guess it will just have to rot."

"I can't believe what he's been doing with those smaller branches. I thought he would just toss them aside. But he takes them over to the Czech's side of the driveway, and tosses them onto his land! I'm surprised the Czech hasn't noticed. I don't think he'd like that very much. He takes care of his yard."

"This guy must be from the city, moving out here without a chainsaw. He probably thinks that the Czech's yard is just the woods. It is kind of overgrown from that driveway to his mowed yard."

"I think he left it that way so he wouldn't have to see the people on the other side. I don't like it that the man can sit on his porch and look over here at me. I don't like to work in the yard when he's out. And he's there three or four times a day."

"Well, he has brought your mail and checked on you during the snowstorms. He can't be all that bad."

"Maybe not. But he shouldn't be throwing his limbs in the Czech's yard."

My mom. If Hitchcock had met her first, he would have made a movie called "Front Window." Mom may not have a working chainsaw, but I think she has an axe to grind.