Thursday, July 31, 2014

There Is the Edge of Well-Roundedness, and Then There Is the Circumference

A few posts back, I made an announcement which revealed that Backroads is being dragged from the Dark Ages and into modern times, what with the grand opening of its first gay bar, which featured a show with four drag queens. A very special commenter suggested that I might have a good time and get some great stories if I attended such a show. To which I replied, "What makes you think I've never been to a drag show?" Seriously, people. I've been to college!

Among other facts you may not know about Val, she has enjoyed the following pastimes...

Hiked Through the Valley of the Shadow of Roosevelt's Nose.
Okay. Most people just call it Mount Rushmore. But I prefer the terminology from Emmylou Harris in The Ballad of Sally Rose.

Walked the Streets of the Combat Zone in Boston. Yeah. Not THAT kind of street-walking, but I stayed in a hotel there, and walked the Freedom Trail.

Had Her Power Disconnected for Non-payment. Trumped-up charges, I assure you. Of course it happened on the hottest day of the summer. Thank goodness I was a hoarder who saved cancelled checks, and drove to the utility company forthwith to present proof for reconnection.

Dipped Her Tootsies in the Atlantic Ocean. And ran along the beach, and shared a room with a Japanese foreign exchange student who though the shower curtain hung outside the tub, and shared a bed with a 17-year-old married gal who made it a point to announce that she did not wear panties.

Flew Over the Pacific Ocean in a Four-Seat Float Plane. Sure, that was part of the rescue after becoming a castaway on an Alaskan island. Still. How many of YOU have done it?

Partied at the St. Louis Strassenfest. Yes. This used to be a real festival, complete with buckets of beer and overcrowded port-a-potties. Did you know that some people regard the secluded bottom of concrete stairwells as perm-a-potties?

Permanently Damaged Her Knuckles Riding Down the Switchbacks of Pike's Peak in an Olds 98. I am not a fan of heights.

Shopped at a Womyn's Bookstore in Kansas City, MO. Who knew people owning a bookstore would be so bad at spelling?

Attended the St. Louis Symphony. Twice. I'm a sucker for a good oboe.

Went on an El Camino Hayride Through the Streets of the Queen City of the Ozarks. Hayrides ain't just for the country, you know. You'd be amazed how much attention you get from other drivers.

Engaged in the Walk of Shame Through the Dorm Lobby and Up the Elevator. For purely platonic reasons. One can spend the night at the apartment of one's best friend's boyfriend without any hanky panky, just a quest for a good night's sleep, you know.

Visited an Adult Bookstore. Did you know they show movies there in little booths? And sometimes guys invite you in to watch one for free!

Saw a Movie at a XXX Theater. Because sometimes, you just want that full-screen experience, and sometimes, you just want to pay your own way, and sometimes, peer pressure is quite hard to resist.

Crossed the Mighty Mississippi on a Raft. Okay, it was a ferry made to haul cars across, but I can imagine myself a modern-day female Huck Finn if I want.

Camped Overnight in Tents for an Entire Weekend in a Cow Field with a Gaggle of Teachers. Teachers can really let down their hair when prying eyes do not follow them onto private property.

Was Set Up as the Getaway Driver in a Dine-and-Dash Caper. I'm not proud. It's that peer pressure thing again.

Watched a Drag Show with a Raucous Crowd. Can you believe that the venue was not in a good part of town?

Sang Along at a Rock Concert. But strangely enough, I don't remember much except the...ahem...smoky atmosphere, and that curb my driver's car jumped on the way INTO the parking lot.

Sat in the Seats of Busch Stadium to See Bob Gibson Pitch a Speedy Victory. More than once. Gibby ROCKED!

Visited the St. Louis Art Museum. My reaction vacillated between that of Ferris Bueller's friend Cameron being sucked into A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, and Chevy Chase viewing the Grand Canyon in National Lampoon's Vacation.

Was Called "Cheap-A$$ Backroads" at a Cafeteria Chain Below the Mason-Dixon Line. Hey! I wasn't the only cheap-a$$! My fellow seniors and I were shocked, SHOCKED, that we were not considered capable of carrying our own tray of food a few feet to a table to eat it.

Cheered Loudly from the Audience at Performances of Joan Rivers, Jerry Seinfeld, and Kathy Griffin at The Fabulous Fox. Because I am a highbrow.

Oh, and Let's Not Forget that Tractor Pull...

Val is well rounded for a Backroadsian. Some might call her positively rotund.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Something Snarky This Way Comes

Hey! Did you hear? Val had a visitor last Friday! Yes. A celebrity from the city. Perhaps you've seen her, hanging out on street corners in a T-shirt emblazoned with: Will Write For Food. Or maybe it specified: Will Write For Bolthouse Farms Vanilla Chai Tea and Any Form of Chocolate. Yes. Sometimes I call her Sioux, and sometimes I call her Madam. In any case, I was tapping my foot with excitement, counting down the seconds until she arrived.

I swear, it was like that time Jerry Seinfeld met Keith Hernandez! Not the part where Keith asked Jerry to help him move. The part where Elaine accused Jerry of acting like it was a date. Yes. I couldn't wait until time for Sioux to arrive so I could talk about myself!

Let me tell you a little something about Sioux. She is a real scofflaw. First thing she did was park her tiny little city car right beside a sign that said, "This lot is for customer parking only. Others will be towed." And that, my reading and writing friends, it a bit of foreshadowing. Not the towing part, but the law-scoffing part.

Sioux shamed me by wearing her Crocs. I know I should have been expecting that. But I, alas, did not wear my beautiful red version. I wanted to be sure-footed while piloting T-Hoe all around the towns. Sioux hopped in T-Hoe's shotgun seat bearing her likeness on a stick. Not just any likeness. Nothing handcrafted from student supplies while allegedly working off snow day hours. Nope. Sioux had an 8 1/2 by 11 glossy of her happy face, a photo fit for a queen, attached to a sturdy paint stirring stick. And all I had was my little ol' Val-in-a-Recliner. Country mouse, meet city mouse. I must say, being propped against Sioux's stick persona made this full-figured gal feel quite petite!

First cat out of the bag, I took Sioux on a tour of the old homestead. Out past the prison and through the woods, to Thevictorian house we went. On the gravel road, I tried my best to slow down. I gave Sioux a warning that if she had a spinal fusion, and this trip resulted in paralysis, that I would make sure to drag her body onto our land so her injury would be covered by our umbrella policy.

I couldn't believe that my sweet, sweet Juno did not bound out to greet Sioux like she does every other intruder, the UPS driver, and strange men who walk around the porch like they belong there. Nope. Juno cowered and whimpered like somebody stole her last egg. I don't know what was wrong with her. Perhaps she was embarrassed by her own unkempt appearance. Ann played nice, but we all know that dog has nothing in her noggin, not even a hamster on a wheel.

Sioux was kind enough to send me a couple of pictures. I did not even try to get some with my cell phone. I'm a terrible photographer. Sioux, on the other hand, had this magical device like a computer monitor screen. I think I've heard people call those things iSomethings, or notebooks, or tablets, or surfaces. Or maybe it was just a big flat camera. Anyhoo...she captured us in front of Gassy-G, the bargain auction grill with a hankerin' for Auction Meat.

Sioux might have been experiencing a reaction to the dust on Gassy-G. I, however, was comfy in my recliner, having immunities to all particulate matter that flies around Backroads.

We stopped by the creek and EmBee, the mailbox, for more photo opps. I'd never seen so many cars and trucks come out our gravel road. They all stared at me like I was some city intruder enjoying their wilderness. People can be so rude!

From there, we headed to Voice of the Village. Sioux wanted a shot of the famous Diet Coke dispenser in this store where my magical elixir costs 80 cents or nothing, depending on who's working. People at the coolers near the juice had the nerve to turn and look at us. Took a step in our direction. I guess everyone in Backroads thinks they're invited to the party.

We took off for my mom's house to drop off The Pony. Sioux hopped out to get a photo of Stick-Sioux and Val-in-a-Recliner near the driveway. Mom ran out and asked what was going on. She thought Sioux was sticking a For Sale sign in the yard. Which kind of speaks to the size of Stick-Sioux. Mom being Mom, she forgot the elaborate scenario we had worked up, in which she would grab her quart of slaw and two spoons, and meet us in the yard. As punishment, I made her show Sioux her recent facial incision. AND SHE DID! No twirling that hair in front of it. I guess Sioux seems like someone who would want to see incisions on the mend.

Off to see my school building, though I was not about to venture inside for a third day in a row. No. The halls were being prepped for waxing, and I did not want to lose my head. Or have it get stuck under a faucet in the faculty restroom sink. Not that Sioux would have shoved it there, of course. I though Sioux would simply look at my room from the parking lot. But no! She jumped out with her picture-taker and charged the building. So bold, that Sioux! I jumped out so the inside powers could see me on surveillance, and not call the police on Sioux. Perhaps she mentioned in her account how a police car followed us around Backroads.

By now it was time to have Sioux back to her car before she turned into a pumpkin, or before her car was towed for not being a customer. But first we had one last stop. The gas station chicken store! And in honor of the upcoming birthdays of Sioux and Val, a tall cake sat in the grass, with a birthday wish upon it: Happy 150th! Yes. We look young for our age. A picture of that cake was not good enough for Sioux. She insisted on a picture from INSIDE THE GAS STATION CHICKEN STORE!

That Sioux has balls of steel. I presume. I did not check out her ball-attachment anatomy. That kind of thing is frowned upon, even here in Backroads. But what happened next was my clue. Sioux said I could sit in the getaway car T-Hoe if I was embarrassed, and she would go in and take a picture. Oh, dear. I know those workers in that cramped gas station chicken store. They can smell a stranger a mile away. And nobody could be stranger than Sioux with her iSomething, propping a giant head on a paint stick and a shrunken head in a recliner up against the soda spigots. It wasn't long before Sioux scurried across the parking lot. I may or may not have been in motion already, causing her to dive through the door like a hobo hopping a train.

"What's the matter? Did they give you the bum's rush? Grab you by collar and belt, and fling you out?"

"No. But as I was setting up the sticks, a lady said, 'CAN I HELP YOU WITH SOMETHING?' And I said, 'No. I'm just taking a picture.'"

Balls. Of. Steel.

I ferried Sioux over to her tiny little city car, which was miraculously untowed, and she gave me some fudge for not abandoning her on a canoe trip down the big river for toothless men who like purty mouths to find. I must admit I felt a bit guilty. I think I had lured Sioux here under false pretenses, having promised her lunch, then not giving her so much as a gas station chicken leg. Que sera, sera. At least I already had the fudge in my hot little hands.

It was a wonderful day. One more thread woven through the rich tapestry of my life.
Plus fudge!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Unveiling of Val Thevictorian

Hey! I've been working on a project. Not so much a project as a method of frittering away the time I served in my classroom to make up some snow days. Here are the results:

Yep! That's Val-in-a-Recliner. First of all, let's show the elephant in the room the door. I got this idea from Cathy C. Hall, and her Cathy-on-a-Stick. I'm not really stealing. I'm FLATTERING! Because, you see, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And Val is nothing if not a flatterer. So, thank you, Cathy C. Hall, for not pressing charges.

The reason for the birth of Val-in-a-Recliner was a visit from blog buddy Sioux. I knew we needed something special to commemorate our crime spree. And with no color printer hooked up thanks to Genius, I had only a black-and-white head shot to work with. That would not do. Nobody puts Val in a monochrome. And what better background for Val's head shot than a recliner? So...with scant hours remaining before Sioux's impending rendezvous, I printed black-and-white photos of a recliner and my own head. THEN I colorized them with colored pencils from my classroom cabinet, glued them together with glue sticks that were NOT LOCKED UP (that's for you, Mabel), and taped them to two bendy straws left over from our tower-building competition in May. Perhaps you don't grasp the full effect of Val's artistic ability in that photo. Here's a close-up:

Note the finer details in the shading of the threadbare recliner. And Val's ruddy cheeks! Yes. I truly outdid myself on this one. In fact, the consensus is that Val-in-a-Recliner looks more like Val than her state-issued driver's license photo. Here now! No comments on how my eyebrows look like the ones Elaine drew on Uncle Leo with Magic Marker! And nary a word about how I look suspiciously like that picture of George's boss, Mr. Kruger, who George tried to draw in after he got airbrushed out of the beach photo that had George in the background. That's what happens when you're gluin' it old-style. No Photoshop on Val's New Delly. Val is an improvisor, flying by the seat of her comfortable pants.

I would like to get on with a rebuttal (heh, heh, I said reBUTTal) of Sioux's version of the visit, but time and space do not allow that today. It's in the works.

Come back tomorrow!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Circle the Handbaskets, the End is Nigh!

Just when you thought civilization might have a few good years left before totally collapse...

On the way to town today, to drop off The Pony and some tabloids to my mom, we came upon a funeral procession. Or, rather, it came upon us, head on, from the opposite direction. I saw the line of cars stopped ahead of me, and the oncoming train of cars with lights on, preceded by the hearse. I did what any civilized driver would do, and pulled as far as I could to the right, then waited until the funeral party passed. Between me and the other cars in my lane was the parking lot entrance to a pawn shop. So I did not block it, but left that gap.

Just after the hearse and two lead cars passed me, with a full line of mourners still to come, I spied a car fast approaching in my rearview mirror. "I hope that car doesn't ram us. It's coming pretty fast. I know it can see that I'm parked, and those cars ahead of us are parked. What's the deal? STOP ALREADY!"

That car kept a-comin'. If I had put T-Hoe's PRNDL in R, I would have heard my back-up beeper go off. That's how close Speedy came to ramming me. Speedy sat for about three seconds, half behind me and half in the center turn lane.


I shook my fist and yelled, "You speed-demon! Show respect!" It was not as good as my "You kids get off my lawn" speech. But I WAS strapped in behind the wheel, and didn't have full use of my shaking fist. "You know to pull off when a funeral is coming, don't you, Pony?"

"Uh huh. It's a sign of respect."

So after blowing by me, Speedy rushed up on the waiting line of cars and slammed on the brakes. The funeral passed, and we came upon the butt-end of Speedy at a red light. I shook my fist some more, for good measure, and my head as well, in an effort to shame some sense into Speedy. At the next red light, we were making a right, and passed by Speedy in traffic.

"Huh. It's not like Speedy is a kid who doesn't know better. She's all bleachy blonde with skin like leather. No spring chicken. And look! She has handicap plates! Must be MENTALLY handicapped." (Let the record show that Val does not mean this as an indictment of all differently-mentally-abled folk.)

"Hey! She had a hospital bracelet on her wrist!"

"Well, maybe she's an ESCAPED mental patient. Which would explain the big hurry."

I swear. It's the downfall of society. People have no common sense of decency any more. Who passes a car in the turn lane when it's pulled over for a funeral procession?

I am giving you all permission to seek handbaskets from my competitors. You may need them before my proposed handbasket factory is up and running.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

You've Got To Pinch a Penny or Two, Girls, You've Got To Pinch a Penny or Two

Well. I guess this just goes to show that you never really know anyone as well as you think you do. Take my mom, for instance. No. I am not stealing that old Henny Youngman joke. I would not want anyone to actually take my mom. Though if I did, I would say "please," because she raised me to be polite like that.

This morning I called her to check in before she went to church. We only chatted a few minutes, because, as she was the first to say, she didn't know anything. We commiserated on how we could manage the Cardinals better than their current manager, and how he better not mess things up in today's game like he did on Friday. Then we hung up.

At 9:45, the time Mom normally leaves for church, my phone rang.

"Did you give me the papers this week? I was going to put them in my neighbor's mailbox, but I don't remember reading them, and I can't find them. I cleaned up a stack of papers yesterday, so I could have misplaced them. But I don't think The Pony ever brought them to me." Of course she meant her weekly hand-me-down tabloids, The National Enquirer and The Globe.

"I'm sure he did. I had them laid out. Remember how I told you that Camilla called Kate in a drunken stupor and told her to watch out, because Charles had Diana killed, and now he was trying to have herself killed, and to be aware because William would probably want to have Kate killed, too? There were some good stories last week."

"Oh. I know you said that, but I didn't read it. That's okay. I'm on my way to church. I have to go to the bank first thing tomorrow morning and get checks without your name on them. I can't use my other checks. Friday was the last day."

"I know how much you distrust me, and won't write a check with my name on it. I assure you, your money is safe with me." I was just needling her a bit. Her bank was bought out, and they sent her new checks, but they included my name and my sister the ex-mayor's wife's name on the checks because we are on Mom's account. Little things like this really bother Mom. Can you imagine? You'd think the custodian had been moving her classroom furniture around or something.

"I was just telling you that in case you try to call me tomorrow morning and I'm not home. I might go to Aldi's after church, because the regular preacher is still gone on vacation, and we might get out early. But I might come straight home to watch the game. That bothers me about the checks, because now I can't write one to donate at church today."

"Mom. I pretty sure they'll take cash."

"Oh! I don't feel right about putting in cash."

"Mom. I don't think anybody is going to steal your cash out of the collection plate."

"No, I'm not worried about them taking it. But I want a record that I donated."

"So let me get this straight. You won't leave cash, because you wouldn't get credit for donating. So to avoid that, you are simply not going to donate?"


"That seems kind of...I don't know...odd. That you want to make sure people know you donated, that this fact is really important to you, yet you are purposefully not donating. So not only will you not get credit, but you are not actually donating. I don't understand that reasoning."

"Well, that's just how I am."

"Okay. You'd better get going. I'll see if we still have the papers around here." Let the record show that I found the tabloids in my school bag, a must when spending two days working during the summer to make up snow day hours.

Huh. If mom was Fagin in the musical Oliver!, she would sing her own little song. Rather than, "You've got to pick a pocket or two, boys, you've got to pick a pocket or two," my mom would sing, "You've got to pinch a penny or two, girls, you've got to pinch a penny or two." The choreography would be Mom twirling around between the pews, passing that collection plate right across to the next parishioner without putting in even a farthing.

Yes. Mom has her own dirty little secret. Make that HAD.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Sittin' In the Tahoe, Explainin' It's a Drag (Queen)

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Time marches on! Even in Backroads.

Imagine my surprise when I clicked on my hometown online newspaper Friday morning, and saw that Backroads is getting its first gay bar. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Okay, the first thing I thought was, "Why does this paper sell so many ads that it takes a coon's age to load a page? Why must this paper make it so hard for people who don't pay an arm and a leg for a print subscription to read their paper?" But I think that every day when I read the paper. For free. From the comfort of my laptop, without waiting all day and watching out the window for it to be deposited in a special box beside the mailbox, because nobody can mess with federal property used by the U.S Postal Service.

The next thing I did was read about school drug testing. And then about a dude who left his naked toddler wandering on the state lettered highway, then refused to pick him up from the police station because, "I have warrants." And then about a scam warning because of people calling and saying they're a relative in a foreign country and need money to get home. But right after that, I clicked on the new gay bar.

Seems like it opened last weekend, with a big shindig that included four drag queens from the city, and over a hundred customers who had a great time. It's not in Backroads proper, but near a lake development. The guy who runs it says he's going to add a restaurant on the side. He thinks there's enough clientele to keep him afloat, and he says that anybody is welcome, not just gays. I think with his location, he might pull in a bunch of the lake crowd. Think about it. They can drive their golf carts and four-wheelers across the road, and not have to go anywhere for a night out and risk a DWI. Not that driving a golf cart under the influence is good. But you know what I'm getting at. If that location is not exactly where I think it is, he may go under. Nobody wants to drive to the middle of nowhere to have a few brews. Apparently they're only having one drag queen this weekend, with a cover charge of five dollars. Seriously. You can't even go to the movies for that.

I told my mom about it on our bill-paying trip. Her paper doesn't get there until the afternoon. Sucks to pay an arm and a leg and have to wait for your paper. Anyhoo...I told her I didn't see people across the county beating a path to its door just for that kind of show. And do you know what she said?

"Oh. You don't think Hick would go to check it out?"

"Um. No."

"Just to see what it's like?"

"No. Let's remember his buddy will not even wear a purple shirt because purple is a girl's color. I don't see Hick going to a gay bar to watch a drag show."

Apparently my mom does not know Hick as well as she thinks she does. Now if it was a strip club that just opened, or a Hooters, he'd be there with bells on.

She must think they serve Jacques Bonet Extra Dry California Champagne from 1970.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Val Has a Dirty Little Secret

There has been a situation developing over the past two or three weeks. A situation which I am reluctant to discuss. Something to be swept under the rug. Locked in the attic. Shoved between the mattress and box springs. But you know Val! She of the loose lips, who could have single-handedly sunk the Titanic with nary an iceberg in sight, just a couple of flippant comments to the wrong parties, and BINGO, the Titanic takes a nosedive into Davy Jones's locker. And I'm not talking about The Monkee who Marcia Brady got to sing at her dance.

Here's the deal. There's a dirty little secret in Backroads, and that dirty little secret is my sweet, sweet Juno. She has grown unkempt. She's the Pigpen of the Thevictorian fleabags. Where she used to be silky and shiny, she is now dull and matted. Full of burs. She has truly let herself go. If she was a person, she would be that gal you try to help by leaving Secret in her locker, dropping a sample bottle of Scope in her purse, or telling about this fabulous new shampoo you have just tried, called Prell. You don't want to hurt her feelings, but an intervention must be held.

The Pony and I have both tried brushing Juno with the metal-pronged dog brush. She stands mostly still for me, but sits down for The Pony so he can't get to her feathery haunches. Her tail, which used to brush back-and-forth like a silky black broom, is now coated with dust, and tangled. The Pony and I have picked burs until the cows come home. But the next morning, Juno is full of them again.

I told Hick that I want to shave Juno, or trim her to a very short length for the summer. He said I can't do that. That Juno's fur is how she keeps herself cool. Today I asked him again. Like maybe we can take her to a groomer at the start of next summer, and get her a haircut. Until then, my idea is a good No-More-Tears kind of dog shampoo. I fear that Hick is correct when he says she will simply run through the burs again tomorrow. And the day after. And the day after. Indeed, that seems to be the pattern.

Either Ann the black german shepherd is lazier than Juno, or she has fur that repels the burs. Her only issue is that tan undercoat that gets full of dust, but it is easily brushed out with the dog comb. Funny thing. Lately Ann has been sleek and silky and shiny, while Juno is drab and dull. I think perhaps somebody else is eating Juno's daily egg ration.

Anyhoo...Wednesday evening, I sent The Pony in to get my kitchen shears. I stood on the sidewalk and petted Juno up on the side porch. When the scissors arrived, I hacked many, many wads of bur-matted fur off of various locations on her body. Quite a lot, really. She was mainly compliant, though I did have to say "bad dog" a couple of times when she tried to run off to her house.

While I was snipping snarls of fur-burs, The Pony took it upon himself to clean out the dog brush for the umpteenth time. The easiest way, you know, is to whack it on the side of the porch, or some other sturdy object. The Pony discovered this on his own and showed me, because I used to pull out those tufts of fur with my hands, much like you would clean a human hair brush. So there I am, snipping away, and The Pony, standing up on the side porch, starts whacking that dog brush on the shelf that holds the roaster pan full of cat kibble. Which meant that all of the fur wads he knocked loose were blown by the wind right into my face. I brought that news to his attention.

"Hey! The wind is blowing that dog fur right into my face!"

"I know."

Well. I'd had enough! I gave my kitchen scissors to The Pony and told him to take them inside. At least that got rid of him while I gave Juno a reward for being mostly a good sport while I hacked at her fur-burs. Oh, don't think I was rough on Juno. According to Hick, he and his Number One son took a break from putting up the sides of a hay shed to remove burs from Juno. WITH A POCKET KNIFE!

"Yeah, we tried to get some off of her. He had a pocket knife, so one of us would hold her while the other sawed until the fur came off."

That man is just barbaric.

So...Thursday morning I was rushing around getting ready to go serve my second day of snow-make-up hours at school, and I went to microwave the two mini sausage biscuits that I have with my medicine. I took the kitchen scissors out of the silverware drawer and snipped the corner off the package. The I snipped down the length of the package to vent it while they warmed.

At that moment I remembered that the last time I used those kitchen scissors was for CUTTING FUR-BURS OFF MY SWEET, SWEET JUNO!

"ACK! I've cut open my food with dog scissors! I have dog germs! Get hot water! Get some disinfectant! Get some iodine!" Lucy Van Pelt has nothing on Val.

"Hey! Pony! Did you put my kitchen scissors right back in the drawer after I used them to cut Juno's fur?"

"Uh huh."

"They needed to be washed! Why didn't you put them by the sink?"

"You didn't tell me to. So I put them back."

My mom loved that story. She almost needed an inhaler to catch her breath. I don't find it quite so funny. And my tail is nowhere near wagging.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

More From the Files of Unqualified People Shipping

For a few years we've had a peace. A calm between storms. A ceasefire with Unqualified People Shipping. Oh, sure, we still have our Hatfield and McCoy feud with FedEx. But the biscuit-tossing dog lady had spoiled us with her prompt and polite UPS deliveries. Until yesterday.

I was expecting a package from Amazon. Two-day shipping is free with Prime, you know. It's supposed to arrive by 8:00 p.m. on the second day. I had received emails saying my package had shipped, and would be here on Wednesday.

When The Pony and I came home from school, we found a post office orange card in EmBee. We thought Genius might have ordered something. Because my email said my package with two items was arriving by UPS. It was a phone cover dealybobber for Hick, and a book for me. When we got to the house, there was no package. No big deal. They usually come around 4:00-6:00, and it was only 2:30. Still plenty of time.

At 5:30, I got an email that said my package could not be delivered, and I should call for alternate instructions. I called the number given, which was automated, and a recording told me that the package was undeliverable because nobody was home, and it had been handed over to the post office for delivery. When I checked tracking, I saw that the USPS was the plan for delivery all along. UPS contracts some jobs out with them. Thus, the card. A bit of fudging on my undeliverable explanations there, but at least I was going to pick it up the next day.

But wait! That was only the phone cover thingy.

At 7:55, I got a call from the local UPS store. "My driver could not find your address. Is it 1313 Mockingbird Lane?"

"Yes. That's my address. Same as always for the past 17 years."

"Well, he found Mockingbird Lane, but he could not find your house. Which one is it?"

"Um. The one with 1313 Mockingbird Lane on a sign three feet off the road."

"He's new. I'm going to give him a call, and if he's still in the neighborhood, he'll be by with your package in about five minutes."

You know, I believed him. I hollered up to Hick, who even put a pair of shorts on over his post-swimming, after-shower tighty-whities. As you might have surmised by now, the package was not forthcoming. This morning I called the local UPS, whose number I got off my caller ID. The gal sounded a bit surprised that I was calling about an undelivered package, and that I had the tracking number.

"Let me go upstairs so I can look that up."

"I got a call last night that the driver could not find my house. That he found the street, but not my address. That is kind of funny, because my house is less that a half-mile up that street. There is only one other house before it, and I have my address hanging from a sign about three feet off the street, right by the driveway that leads to the house."

"Hm. Can you see the house?"

"Yes. It's right down the driveway by the sign with the address hanging on it. First house on the right."

"Oh, yes it is. I will contact the driver. He's new."

"This package in only a book. Nobody has to be home. Just leave it on the porch. It will be fine."

"I'll make a note of that."

"Well, it's one thing if you can't find the street, but don't tell me you found the street and can't find my house, because that is impossible."

"I'll let him know."

She must have been looking up Google Earth, because she acted like she could clearly see my house arrangement. SOMEBODY is trying to pull a fast one and make an excuse for not getting my package to me in two days. SOMEBODY must be really slow on his route, and thought people would fall for his pitiful excuse.


When The Pony and I got home this afternoon, there was a package on our front porch. The Pony picked it up. He was chortling. "Hey! Somebody drew a picture on our package!"

Yes. I think I got the last laugh. The dispatcher made my point, cartoony and clear. I almost forgive the Unqualified People Shipping for wasting my Amazon Prime money.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Sign Said "Professional Building," But Something Reminded Me of Brownsville Station

Monday I had a follow-up appointment with my pulmonary specialist. I really like him. He's outgoing and personable and seems like he knows what he's doing. The good news is that even though my Backroads hospital sent him a CAT scan of questionable quality, he saw no blood clots in my lungs. The bad news is that now he's changed his tune, and wants to keep me on this blood-thinner until May. I said I didn't want to be on it that long, and he said, "Well, you want to live, don't you?" I think he was being a bit overly dramatic, but he's the doctor. AND he said he's two years older than me, so he gets to boss me around.

The most remarkable thing about that appointment was not what the doctor had to say, but the atmosphere in the waiting room. First of all, I could have climbed Mount Everest faster than the trip from the parking garage to the pulmonary suite. AND we were locked out when we finally arrived at the end of the Professional Building earth, with no chairs in sight, just a disjointed hallway. I take that back. A bunch of mismatched chairs WERE in sight, in the dark, through the glass of the waiting room. Inside we could see a light on the receptionist behind her window, so busy ignoring us. Finally a different lady came out and turned on the lights and unlocked the door. Let the record show that we arrived at 9:45. The first appointment was at 10:00. I was supposed to get there early to fill out paperwork.

Anyhoo, I signed in and got my clipboard, and Hick and I sat on opposite sides of a corner from each other. Hick busied himself reading a flyer on how your body reacts once you quit smoking. It had a dramatic picture of a black lung. Other people trickled in, including a husband/wife combo who both had an appointment at the same time. I think they were the 10:00, because they were called back just before me, even though I arrived earlier.

While we were waiting, the Combo got up and changed seats, sitting a mere chair away from Hick, and a bit across from me. Hick was playing with his new phone. I sent him a text. "That guy stinks." Of course Hick didn't read it until later, after the HimCombo told the HerCombo he was going to the bathroom, and was gone ten minutes. Judging from his smell before he left, I think I know what he was doing. And it has nothing to do with a toilet. If people in real life had thought bubbles like people in cartoons, here's what was floating above the head of the HimCombo:

How you doin' out there? Did y'ever seem to have one of those days
Where it just seems like everybody's gettin' on your case
From your doctor all the way down to your best wife
Well, y'know, I used to have 'em just about all the time
But I found a way to get out of 'em, let me tell you about it

Sittin' in the waiting room, thinkin' it's a drag
Listenin' to the receptionist rap just ain't my bag
The clock passed 10:30, you know that's my cue
I'm gonna sneak a butt down the hall in the loo

Smokin' in the pulmonary specialist's men's room
Smokin' in the pulmonary specialist's men's room
Now, doctor, don't you fill me up with your rules
Cause everybody knows that smokin' with bad lungs ain't cool

Maybe it's just me, but I expect patients in a pulmonary specialist's waiting room to be smoke-free. Because if you have to see a lung doctor, that means your lungs are not up-to-snuff for smoking. Is that too much to ask? I also expect patients in a podiatrist's waiting room to have at least one foot, patients in an optometrist's waiting room to an eye, and patients in a gynecologist's waiting room to have hooters and a cooter. Oops! Sorry to be so crass as to use the typical Backroads medical terminology for those parts. Ahem. I meant patients in a gynecologist's waiting room should have breastesses and a 'gina.

I really don't think that's too much to ask. Said Val, Queen of the Universe.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Oh, the Places You'll Go and the Stories You'll Hear

Welcome back to this week's tour of the infirmary. Today we take Val's mom to get eight stitches removed from her face. A simple feat, you might think. But you are forgetting that we're talking about Val and her mom, out on the town, together again.

Mom hopped into T-Hoe with a bouffant to rival early Dolly Parton. "I didn't put any medicine on my face today. I figured I could do that after I get home." I could not even see Mom's incision. She had that hair all teased up with a silver metal rattail comb so it made a protective layer over her cut like a cone of cotton candy.

"That's probably not good for it. Those hairs are getting stuck in the stitches."

"That's all right. Those stitches are coming out."

In the waiting room, a pharmaceutical rep had the nerve to sit in the chair right next to Mom. Mom had already turned her body toward me, and the rep had turned away from Mom as well, to type into her drug-selling device. Mom fiddled with her hair on that side, twisting it and forming a barrier.

"I swear! Let it alone! What if you had this? THIS? This Frankenstein scar on your throat like me? That looks like my head is about to fall off. If you had that, you would part your hair in the middle, and tie both sides together down under your chin, like a beard."

"No I wouldn't. I would wear a scarf."

"It's ninety-five degrees out there! Deal with it like I do. A scar's a scar. It's part of you. People get used to it. Own your scar. If it was that big a deal, you should have asked for a plastic surgeon."

"Well, you have to understand, this is major surgery for me. It's the first time I ever had stitches. Except for the time I had that operation on my breast." She whispered that last word.

"Oh, and I suppose that didn't bother you at all. That you flaunted it. 'Look! Look! I have stitches! See my stitches?' Yeah. I'll bet you plopped it right out there for all to see."

"Yes I did." Mom sometimes gets a bit horsey when I take things too far.

She was called in, and I followed. She said I could. But when I instructed her to say, "Oh, you come in with me," when called, she refused. "You can come in if you want. But I'm not going to say that." Hmpf! I guess I DID go too far.

I had told Mom that the doctor would probably not take out the stitches himself. That he has people to do that for him. She said she would demand that he do it himself. That demand flew out the window when he popped his head in and told his nurse to do it for him. She was a tiny little thing with silky black hair (not unlike that of my sweet, sweet Juno--I wonder if this gal likes raw eggs) wearing fuschia sweatpants and a black knit shirt. So much for scrubs around the office.

"What ARE you?" Mom asked. Perhaps a bit politically incorrectly. The little gal had an accent.

"What do you mean?"

"Are you a student? A nurse? A nurse practitioner? Why do you do these things? Have you done them before or are you just learning?"

"I'm a nurse. I've done it before. Yesterday I had the BEST-LOOKING man! I had to clean out his ear. Still. I can look, can't I? I'm married, but I can look."

"Oh, when my late husband was in the hospital for heart surgery, there was a doctor who came to talk to me that was so good-looking that I didn't hear a word he said."

Fuschia told Mom to climb up on the table and lay on her side. She picked up the scissors the doctor had given her, and a pair of long tweezers. There was some debate about whether Mom had six stitches or eight. Mom proclaimed eight, but Fuschia said six. She was having a devil of a time getting ahold of those stitches.

"They are in so deep. Your skin has grown over them."

"What if you can't get them out?"

"Oh, I'll get them out!" Fuschia went off for better scissors, and returned with a pair that had curvy ends. "This should do it." By the time she was done, eight stitches lay on the exam table beside Mom. "I'm sorry, honey. I know that hurt. It's bleeding a little bit because they were grown in. Let me put some gauze over that for now."

Mom was a bit nervous, being back on her blood-thinner. It didn't help when Fuschia wiped with the gauze, and Mom saw it come away red. Fuschia put some alcohol on more gauze, and laid it on the side of Mom's head.

"Just lay there for a minute. You think THIS is bad? Let me tell you about the time I had stitches. All of my male relatives are ministers or preachers. I decided that I wanted to be a preacher, too. So I climbed up on the dresser, and was giving a sermon. I was walking back and forth, preaching." Fuschia walked her fingers along the edge of the supply table, back and forth, prancing, stomping. "I got to the end, and my foot slipped off the corner like THIS! And both feet flew off and I landed RIGHT ON THE CORNER! Do you know where I had to get stitches? RIGHT HERE!" Fuschia pointed to the area where her right leg joined the rest of her body. "Image a doctor taking stitches out, with his head right there! I was only twelve years old."

After we left the office, Mom said, "I really like her. She tells it like it is."

"No wonder. You two are just alike! You never know when to stop. Some things just don't need to be said."

Of course I had to tell that story to The Pony on the way home. His response?

"Ay yi yi!" With a palm to his forehead.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Cat On a Hot Wood Porch

How have I enjoyed my summer? Let me count the ways. Um. I can't even get to "Number one..." Oh, wait! That's right. I haven't enjoyed my summer. Except for the being alive part, that is. I guess the glass of summer really is half-full.

Here's what a summer should be:

Yeah. You might think that some skunk ran up on the boards Hick had left over after patching the soon-to-be-walked planks around by the kitchen, and laid down and died about a week ago, and is now bloated and ready to explode. But you would be wrong.

You might think an errant child invaded the grounds while we were away, and left his stuffed animal as a calling card. But you would be wrong.

You might think an obese capuchin monkey escaped from a lonely old woman who bought it on the black market to make a monkid out of it and feed it french fries and dress it in frilly frocks. But you would be wrong.

That is our extremely obese cat, Stockings, snoozing as he does for about 23 hours and 45 minutes each day. He was kind of on his back, with his feet balancing his rotund body to keep it from rocking back and forth in the breeze like a barrel bobbing over Niagara Falls.

THAT is what a proper summer should look like. Summertime...and the snoozin' is breezy.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Goosing the Gander, OR, The Afternoon of Living Dangerously

Hey! Remember how I have been kind of recuperating all summer from my unfortunate three-day hospitalization, having knocked a bit too hard on death's door?

And remember how I have not been able to sleep past 5:00 or 6:00 a.m., depending on Hick's whim of how much rest he thinks I've indulged in between my usual bedtime of 2:00 a.m. and his departure for work?

Get this! Today, Sunday, Hick made sure I was up and moving by 7:30. Yes. I know that's a Rip-Van-Winkle age for my sleep habits. But still. It's SUNDAY! Just because Hick goes to bed with the chickens at the crack of dusk, and slurps up sleep like a five-year-old on a cherry sno-cone...that doesn't mean I am ready to get up when he does to admire whatever shack he's building, or watch him cart his auction bargains from Pacifica to Gator. Or, most often, to observe his tail lights as he drives to town for a clandestine breakfast under the guise of getting a four-hour haircut.

Well! Take a whiff of THIS fine kettle of fish! Hick was in and out, puttering around doing a great big deal of nothing, calling The Pony to hold something while he screwed it (something metal or wood, I'm hoping), and waiting for Genius to return from an overnight swimming trip so they could chew the fat about his new phone. I went to town for some provisions for Genius to take back to his basement apartment and wrestle the landlords' Husky for, and some meat for Hick to grill for supper.

No sooner had I returned and put away the groceries and plopped down in the La-Z-Boy to rest my weary knees than Hick crossed the threshold in a dramatic, wide-open kind of way that invites flies to partake of our hospitality. "I feel sick to my stomach," pronounced Hick.

"Do we need to go to the ER? Are you having a heart attack?"

"No. I feel sick to my stomach, I said."

"What did you eat?"

"Just a breakfast platter from Burger King."

Let the record show that Burger King is not in Backroads proper, but down the highway a piece in a neighboring town. Let the record further show that the time was shortly before noon.

"I'm going to lay down and see if I feel better."

Let the record show in detail that Hick had already enjoyed a full nine hours of shut-eye before getting up at 7:30 a.m.

With the assurance that the Grim Reaper was not Hick's little shadow, the thought dawned on me that I had been forcibly yanked from my slumber, while this snooze glutton was now having second helpings. Not on my watch. Val, like karma and Mother Nature, is a harsh taskmistress. I waited about ten minutes, time enough for Hick to make himself comfortable and nod off. Hm. I had not yet changed out of my town clothes. So I opened the bedroom door on the way to our bathroom to slip into my raggedy attire, and saw Hick, or at least a large lump under a sheet with a tube to the breather running under it.

"Hey! Remember all those mornings this summer that you made sure I was wide awake before you left for work? THIS IS WHAT IT FEELS LIKE!" No. I'm not proud. But I felt like a teakettle releasing steam. Like the boiler at the Overlook Hotel right after Jack Torrance dumped it so it wouldn't blow. Fair is fair. Said the goose mentally to the gander. I might have hear a "hmpf" evaporate through the sheet. I went about my business of clothes-changing, and gathered myself some lunch and descended to my dark basement lair to inflict my annoyance on the blogosphere.

At 3:00 p.m., Hick hiked all the way down the 13 stairs to ask why I had done such a thing. Was it really necessary? Yes. Yes, it was.

"You know how you felt when I barged in and woke you up? Well, multiply that by 60, and you'll understand how I have felt all summer long. Except that you just went back to sleep for another three hours."

"It's not like that at all. I WAS SICK!"

"Yeah. So was I. I needed rest to recover, and I got none. All summer."

"Well, you should have gone to bed earlier."

"YOU should have gone to bed earlier! THREE HOURS earlier!"

"It is totally different. There was no need for that. It's not the same at all."

Sadly, there's no enlightenment for the gander, and no rest for the goose.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Can a Handyman Get Malpractice Insurance?

I called Mom last night to see if Chatty Handy was still there.

"Oh, no! He left around 1:00."

"Did you pay him already?"

"Yes. I had one more job for him before I let him go. One of the closet doors in my bedroom is off the track. I used to be able to lift it back on the rail, but the wood is so heavy that I can't do it now. He put it right back on for me."

"Are you paying him by the job or by the hour?"

"I don't know. I paid him $210."

"I guess that's all right. But if you were paying him by the hour, you got cheated. He could have been done in an hour and a half instead of five hours."

"Oh, it was well worth it for all he did. Those other people I call want so much more to do these things."

"Were you satisfied with his work?"

"Well, I haven't been up on the roof, and the furnace isn't running in the basement, and we'll see about that foundation crack when it rains. But he DID show me a picture of the work he did around the chimney."

"And you believe that's really a picture of YOUR roof?"

"Stop. Don't make me laugh. Yes, I believe him. But it seems like every time he comes out, he's always asking ME for the stuff to work with."

"What did he patch the roof with?"

"Some metal that was down in the basement, on the work bench. It was like folded over flat metal. He said, 'This will work just fine.' So that's what he took."

"What about that foundation crack?"

"Well, I had bought some stuff a while back, thinking I could do it myself, but I have not had a very productive summer. So I gave him that, and then I gave him a baggie, and he cut the corner off to squeeze it out. "

"What was it? Did it come in a bag? In a bucket?"

"Oh, it was a powder in a container, like a Cool Whip container, and he brought the rest of it back to me, and he had even written the date on it so I would know how old it was."

"How can you not know how you paid him? Didn't you agree on that before you hired him?"

"No. But he always writes up a bill and goes over it with me so I know exactly what he's charging for."

"Yeah. That's a surprise. I guess you didn't pay attention."

"I looked at the amount. Then I got him the money."

"You didn't let him see you get it out of your safe, did you?"

"No. I had put some bills in the back of my checkbook. I asked him if he wanted cash or a check. He said, 'Well, I'll take either one you want to give me. A check is fine. But if you have the cash, I'll take that.' So I started counting out the money, and he said, 'Oh, I don't want to take all of your cash. A check will be fine.' But I told him, 'I have ten dollars left, and that will last me until I can get to the bank and cash my little check I get every month.' I wasn't about to let him know I had more money than that."

"Never a simple answer from that guy."

"While I was counting out the money, he was sitting at the kitchen table with me, and he said, 'That part of your face there will go back to normal after the stitches come out. It won't have that big bump on it.' That's the part I was telling you about that I think sticks out."

"WAIT! He was commenting on your face while you counted the money! That is not appropriate. I swear! Did you let him run his dirt-encrusted hands over your stitches? You just don't know how to get rid of that guy. Maybe you should hire him to come back tomorrow and put on your triple antibiotic ointment."

"Oh, don't get me tickled! He's gone. I paid him. Now I can call the guy who wants to buy my truck. He said he would come out and get it. That I don't have to take it to his shop."

"You need a chaperone. Full time. I'm going to talk to that neighbor across the road."

Friday, July 18, 2014

Sometimes, Gab is Not Necessarily a Gift

My mom is having some work done. Not the fake facelift that her doctor told her he was doing on her face when he carved off her lingering lesion. No. Actual work. On her house. She has a guy she calls for these odd jobs. He works on his own, sometimes with his son, and he has a truck with his name and "Handyman Services" on the side.

I call him Chatty Handy.

He's the guy who replaced the silver aluminum drain plug thingy in my mom's white family-room bathroom sink with a blue one. She didn't know until after he left and she went in to check on the job. He's also the one who asked her for a check to take to the lumberyard, and she refused. She showed him! She rode along with him and wrote out that check herself.

Today Chatty Handy was scheduled to fix three things. The DISH man had told Mom she had a leaky hole in the roof near her chimney. Mom said there was a crack in the foundation under the windows to her family room. The furnace in the basement does not blow hot air the way it used to, also according to Mom. Chatty Handy was due to arrive with his son between 8:00 and 8:30 this morning.

I called Mom to see if she needed anything from the store. I was going back to tend her stitches, having removed her bandaid yesterday and slathered her with triple antibiotic ointment. I also told her to keep her hair off those stitches, and fished a cap out of her hall closet to keep her from wearing a hairnet kind of shower cap thingy she wears when she cooks. When I called around 9:00, she said she had been in the yard talking to Chatty Handy, who was going up on the roof. What they had been doing the other 30 or 60 minutes, I'm not sure, but I suspect they were chewing the fat.

I did not arrive until going on noon. Mom was not sitting on the porch waiting for me as usual. Nor was she standing in the door, asking if I wanted help bringing in the bananas and Little Debbie Swiss Rolls I had picked up for her. I grabbed the bags (of course I got her a treat of Fiddle Faddle and a can of beer nuts, because she's my mom, and she's housebound for a few days) and went on in.

Well! Chatty Handy was standing right there in the kitchen, jawing away, and he SCREAMED that I had scared him to death when I came in. Let the record show that the big wooden door was open, and all I did was click the latch on the full-length glass storm door, in plain sight of them, to walk in. That is my right, I think, as the new Thirteen-Dollar Daughter.

Mom kept trying to scurry Chatty Handy on his way so we could get down to wound care. I had groceries suffocating under two winter coats in the back of T-Hoe. Chatty Handy does not pick up social cues very well. He kept on with a long-winded tale of some stroke victim without the use of her arm, and how one side of the brain controls the opposite side of the body, and how there is medicine that can do wonders with a stroke if given within one hour, and how with rehab, this lady might actually recover and be better than before, because that's what happens when a person survives a stroke. I'm shocked that he doesn't just chuck this whole handyman business and go on the lecture circuit with a medical team.

Finally Chatty Handy made an exit, as I kept my head down, not engaging him, readying a box of bandaids, a tube of triple antibiotic ointment, a roll of paper towels, a cup of water, and a drinking straw. "Hey! I have a boo boo on my hand? Think I can get a bandaid?"

"No." That's it. Not engaging. I did not even look toward his hand. It could have been hanging by a sinew, and I would not have treated him. I thought he was just joking. He can get his own wound care specialist while he's hanging out with the stroke team.

No sooner had I started wiping away yesterday's ointment than Chatty Handy returned up the steps from the family room.

VAL: "Am I parked in your way? Do you need to leave?"

CH: "Oh, no! I still have to fix that foundation and the duct work in the basement. I guess I'll do it better if I take my tools." Chatty Handy headed out front to get his stuff from the truck. Who knows what he'd been doing for four hours. Talking, is my guess. He must have gone around the front of Mom's split-level home, because we were happily without his company for a good five minutes.

I was just rinsing soapy water off Mom's stitches by dribbling water from a drinking straw when I saw Chatty Handy come in the sliding doors off the family room patio. Up the steps he came. "I just wanted you to know that I filled in that crack. I used the baggie you gave me, and cut off the corner, and squirted it in the crack. I dug as far back as I could and pulled out all the broken stuff. I have an ice pick that I used. Here..."

MOM: "Oh, you used an ice pick? No! You don't have to show me."

Chatty Handy dug into his tool bag and brandished the ice pick like it was a prize-winning large-mouth bass. "Yeah. You should be all right unless you notice your carpet getting wet. Or a smell, like mildew or mold."

MOM: "So it will be fine unless I smell mildew. I'll remember that."

CH: "Just between you and me, we've had a bathroom issue at home...that's all I'll say...but I told my wife, 'Quit spending so much on all those cans of air freshener. Just buy one of those wicks and set it on top of the air conditioner.' She said, 'Won't the dog bother it?' And I said, 'If he does, then he deserves whatever problems it gives him.' You know, you can also buy those filters to put on a furnace that spread a fresh smell."

MOM: "So it should be fine?"

CH: "Yes. I'll go to the basement now. That will give that patch time to set up."

VAL: "MOM! Don't engage him! He'll only talk more!"

MOM: "Well, I didn't think I was...but he just goes on and on."

I had finished rinsing, and was fanning Mom's face with a folded paper towel to air dry it before applying the ointment. Here was Chatty Handy yet again, standing on the steps to the kitchen.

CH: "Did you kick up the thermostat like you said?"

MOM: "Oh, yes. It's on 78."

CH: "That's good. I don't want to get blasted in the face while I'm working on the duct. I'll let you two get on with your visiting."

Let the record show that I was FANNING MY MOM'S FACE WITH A PAPER TOWEL. It's not like we were having tea and cucumber sandwiches.

VAL: "MOM! You are an enabler. You don't have to respond. Be quiet, and he will get uncomfortable and stop talking and get back to work. You are both enablers. You feed on each other. I swear. You two will still be here in a year and a half, him working on those three jobs. I am going to have to call your neighbor across the road, and have him come over here and put a stop to all this visiting."

The end is coming tomorrow. IF Chatty Handy is done.