Sunday, August 31, 2014

This Villager Failed At Raising the Child

Once upon a time, in Genius's youth, he was seeking a cell phone over the internet. I'm a little fuzzy on the details, since we did not buy him his first cell phone until his birthday the year he was in 6th grade. So it must have been in the year or two leading up to this great present that Genius took it upon himself to find bargains that he thought might tempt me into getting him a phone before my master plan schedule.

"Look, Mom! This is such a bargain! And you can use PayPal, too!

"Um. No. You are not getting a cell phone yet. Besides, that one is in China. No way am I buying a cell phone off the internet, and especially not from China."

"Oh. I didn't notice that."

"Look at the shipping details. Besides, my first clue was where it said, 'Having a Hot expensive phone experience with spending ten times less.' And that part about 'Check out more on this Brand new lovely Garget.' Not to mention the seller's Mission: 'Provide the professional sunshine feeling to our customers and turn out to have mutually positive feedback.'"

Yeah. Genius was pretty mad at me for a while over that refusal. Which is neither here nor there today. I simply dug that example out of the vault to explain that today's post is not going to give you a PROFESSIONAL SUNSHINE EXPERIENCE. Sorry.

No rainbow, unicorn, fluffy kitten, or teacup piglet stories to follow. It's downright depressing. The seamy underside of Backroads. Seamier than the headless body found in a septic tank just up the road? No. But seamy, nonetheless.

The Pony and I drove out to my mom's house after she got home from church. The Pony forgot to fix Mom's cell phone while he was there. She somehow got it on vibrate again, and doesn't know how to get it off. The Pony and Genius have both fixed it before. This time, Mom planned to write down the steps on an index card so my sister the ex-mayor's wife can fix it in church if it happens again. Only The Pony could not fix it. AND, when Mom tried to call it from her house phone, it gave a busy signal. Who knows. Maybe a person should upgrade their phone once every ten years or so. This little brick is so old that it's not even a flip phone. But that is neither here nor there. I'm putting off the horror that is about to unfold.

We drove into a maelstrom on the way to Mom's. Rain sluiced down on T-Hoe's windshield like water from...well...a sluice! Winds blew twigs and leaves from the trees. Visibility was nigh nil. But it all petered out (heh, heh, you know what I just said) by the time we left Mom's. And now I am out of delay tactics.

As I pulled out onto the main road from a side street by Mom's church, I saw a boy in the side yard of house that faced the main thoroughfare. He could have been the twin of that Dasher boy in need of a leash who I saw yesterday in Save A Lot. I almost hope he WAS the same kid. I do not like to think that there are more than one of his type in town.

DasherII was not wearing track pants today, but ragtag athletic shorts and a nondescript t-shirt. The kind of clothes Backroads youth sport all summer until they get three new ensembles to start the school year. DasherII stood on the concrete sidewalk in his yard, a half-grown, mostly-white-with-black calico cat crouched between his bare feet. As I turned onto the road, DasherII bent at the waste. He was shaking his finger at the kitty. Then he swatted Kitty on the head!

I found that upsetting. It's not like Kitty had wrenched free from DasherII's arms, perhaps scratching him in the escape attempt, eliciting instant anger from the child. Nope. Kitty was crouched like a little sphinx, chest over toes, minding her own business. I SO wanted to make a right at the next block, and another right, and another...until I came up that side street so I could give DasherII my teacher stinkeye. Perhaps say, "That's no way to treat an animal. Let it go."

I did not do that. You know why? Because I'm a confrontation-avoider, first of all. I'm not one to kidnap a dog in the middle of the night. But also because the cons outweigh the pros.

DasherII will see the error of his ways, and never abuse an animal again.
DasherII will run into his house, leaving Kitty to flee.
DasherII will learn a lesson 'bout a-messin' with a kitty in public view.

DasherII will squeeze Kitty between his feet just to show me who's boss.
DasherII will scream and his momma will come out and threaten to beat my a$$.
DasherII will scream and his daddy will come out and blast me with a shotgun.
DasherII will scream and a neighbor will call the cops to come get Val-the-Molester.
DasherII will scream and Kitty will escape, running right under the tires of T-Hoe.

Maybe I could have honked to distract him. Too late now.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Maybe I'll Have a New Sideline When My Proposed Handbasket Factory Opens For Business

Val has never been one to advocate the leashing of children.

Sure, she jumped on the bandwagon to promote public service bumper stickers such as "Don't Argue With Your Wife...Just Dicker!" and "Love Your Kids? Belt 'em!" back when jumping on bandwagons wasn't cool. But the practice of Soap-On-a-Rope-ing youngsters never really got Val riled up for or against. Until now.

This afternoon in Save A Lot, as I pushed my cart on its predesignated course, a little boy kept trying to throw himself under the wheels. Okay. Not that he was so coordinated. I would have needed to give him a little help, and I'm pretty sure that's frowned upon, even here in Missouri. But the next person he darts in front of may not be as tenderhearted and sugary sweet as Rainbows-and-Kittens Val.

There I was, ready to round the end cap at the jelly/peanut butter/condiment/pickle/olive aisle, when that wiry dynamo dressed in an orange t-shirt and navy blue track pants with a white stripe darted past, scooting his feet. He was like a weird, forward, speeded-up moonwalker. My cart caught his eye. Figuratively, not literally, but only because I have quick reflexes. Dasher momentarily stopped in his gliding tracks, like a deer in the headlights, and made eyes like Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone, but without slapping his dad's aftershave on his cheeks. That could be because I gave him the Teacher Eye. The look that let him know he was not nearly as cute and precious as he thought he was. He scampered on, house left.

It's not like the kid didn't know better. He was six or seven years old. Not at a stage where it would be easy to take candy from him. Or where he was just fractious because he was missing his nap. I don't profess to be a model parent. But my own kids never acted like this in a store. Sure, Genius was mighty cute hiding inside the round clothes rack at Walmart. But he wasn't running willy-nilly. He walked purposefully at that age when seeking out an associate to inquire about new hard drives or modems. Don't think I never had to leave my cart in the store and forget about shopping to haul a melting-down child to the car. I did. One time. That's all it took. And it was not The Pony. Kids will get away with what you let them.

I'll be darned if Dasher didn't reappear one aisle later, at the back of the store, approaching from the opposite side, and did the same thing. How he got all the way around the store and changed direction to double back is beyooooond me. It's not like he was fetching a forgotten item from his mom's list. I assume he had a mom. Because at the end of the pasta aisle, I saw him standing on the foot of a cart as a woman pushed him past the hot dog and cold cut cooler.

After I loaded my box of groceries in the back of T-Hoe, I looked in BOTH of my working mirrors to make sure I would not run over anything sneaky like that concrete-surrounded light pole at Office Max. Dasher dashed by my door and ran to the back of a small silver SUV parked directly across from me. Startlingly enough, it was NOT the same one that almost T-boned me on the road yesterday.

This silver SUV was full of folks. It was like a hillbilly clown car. I can say that, you know, being a hillbilly myself. It looked to me like the twenty-or-so people in the back seat threw up their hands as if to say, "NO MORE!" when Dasher tried to climb in. I waited and waited for his mom to walk by, but she did not. That's how far removed she was from controlling him. He could have been flattened crossing the parking lot.

I'm not saying people should put a metal choke collar on their offspring's neck, and give a yank every now and then. No. That would be inhumane. But sometimes, a tasteful padded harness with a nylon leash might just make life safer for their unruly underage progeny.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Up Next...Another Episode of Bill-Paying Friday, Starring Val Thevictorian and Her Mom

Friday, Friday, FRIDAY!

I told Mom I'd meet her by the park, and swoop her up to ride along for bill-paying this afternoon. She was game. My mom was born game! She had nothing else to do. She got out early yesterday to lay in a supply of slaw for the three-day weekend. Can't go risking a slaw shortage over the holiday.

Murphy was my copilot today. Murphy. Of the law fame. I stopped off at the credit union to put in the monthly allotment for The Pony's college fund. A friend and classmate of Genius was working. He grabbed my receipt as it printed out on a printer so old it had those little hole things along the edge for a tractor thingy to feed it through. Being a bit like Genius, and of the same no-patience, instant gratification, cutting-edge-technology world...Clerky grabbed the top of that receipt to hurry it along. Except that receipt was for the customer at the other window, and mine was still attached and printing. I had a smear on the bottom line that I could not read, and a shark-teeth-smile chunk out of the bottom edge.

"WHAT? You ruined my receipt!"

"Oh, c'mon. You know you're just going to throw it away."

"Um. You were in my class for a whole year. You know how I operate. That's a big deal to me."

"Yeah. I should have known you're going to save it. Sorry."

I was pulling his leg a bit. But not by much. I guess I'll get over it. I picked up Mom at the park and headed for the bank. Just the ATM. I did my Genius-depositing yesterday, because I knew there would be long lines today. As there were. The Pony and I had a bit of an adventure on the way to get Mom. The car in front of us slammed on the brakes to make a left turn across two lanes of traffic. As The Pony said, "The driver in the car he cut in front of...was like you. Yelling. And he gave the finger, too." Let the record show that Val does not give the finger.

The Pony wanted Rally's for supper. He's spending the night with his grandma. So after making a payment at the savings and loan, we grabbed his food and headed to the real purpose of our trip: THE FROZEN CUSTARD STAND. Mom insisted on a toddler cone. She says it's just right. As if she's Goldilocks. I opted for a concrete made with chocolate custard and chocolate chips. It was breathtaking.

When Mom rides in the passenger seat, she throws a monkey wrench into my routine. My purse has to move to the back floor by The Pony, and my giant yellow bubba cup of ice water must balance precariously over the hole of a regular-size cupholder between the seats. I use the other cupholder to harbor my concrete. However, when I first get it, I set it on the top of the console to let it melt down a little, so I don't get the sticky stuff above the rim on my fingers when I pick it up. Mom can hardly contain herself. No concrete shall ride unattended while SHE'S my copilot! Never mind that it has not once tipped over when I am by myself and have no helping mom-hand.

So...we were pulling out, making a left as the flow of traffic allowed, and Mom was slurping her toddler vanilla with her right hand, and holding onto my concrete with her left. As I gassed T-Hoe to Frogger my way along the road until my next left, my bubba cup tipped to-and-fro like a badly beaten Bobo doll. Mom gave that auditory inhale that is her trademark in panic situations. I grabbed the bubba cup with my right hand to steady it, turning T-Hoe's wheel with my left like I had a 1950s suicide knob.

"I'm sorry, Mom, but you're going to need to sprout a third arm before I can bring you on a trip like this again."

"Oh, don't get me tickled!"

That's kind of her trademark, too.

We took a shortcut through the Lowe's parking lot, where a family of five pointedly avoided the crosswalk to jaywalk diagonally from parking lot to door. It was all I could do to avoid them, what with driving on the wrong side of the road to maneuver around a red minivan parked facing the wrong way in my traffic lane. I wended my way out of that rat-maze to a residential street, and was promptly tailgated by a diesel pickup towing a race car trailer.

"I'm kind of glad that truck just turned. I was afraid it was that race driver who runs over people who anger him. Hey! Pony! Tell Grandma about our town experience, where that guy used inappropriate hand gestures."

"A car cut in front of two others to get to Domino's. That guy was yelling just like Mom does."

"Oh, I can't wait until YOU start driving! You'll have plenty to say. Or else people will be saying them about YOU!"

"No they won't, Pony. I'm sure you'll be a very safe driver." Said Mom. As if she knows. Never having seen him almost take out the side of the BARn in a go-cart.

By now we were on a straight stretch of road from one outer road to another. It's about a half mile, across an overpass, nary a view-obstructor in sight. Two pickups were parked on the shoulder as we turned, with two guys chest-to-chest having a discussion. All at once, the wiry guy pointed three fingers right in the face of the stocky guy. I think they were having a disagreement, because the wiry guy spun around and stalked back to his pickup. Mom said I should have pulled over to watch.

"What? This is not a barbershop parking lot." Mom was in the middle of asking me if Hick would be going to get another haircut tomorrow morning when it happened.

Halfway to the next turn, as I was driving along at the speed limit, on my own side of the road, minding my T-Hoe business, a little silver SUV shot out like a heat-seeking missile from the side road on the left. SHOT OUT! And almost T-BONED my T-HOE! The front right bumper of that ballistic missile came within inches of my driver door. Thank goodness I swerved to the right shoulder. But you know what the kicker was?


Seriously. Since when does the car about to smash into your side honk at YOU? I was lawfully proceeding from Point A to Point B, nary a curve, nary a road sign to block the view. I have no idea what that maniac was thinking. That I had a stop sign, maybe? Don't know. But Maniac sat for a moment sideways in the oncoming lane, then pulled out and followed me at a considerable distance.

"Did you see that? What in the world? I can't believe that! Good thing my concrete was unharmed. Did you see that, Pony?"

"Yeessss. I'm surprised you didn't go on about it like you always do."

"WHAT? I was NOT in the wrong!"

"I know. I never said you were in the wrong. But sometimes I think you go too far complaining about things. And you didn't hardly say anything about THAT, compared to what you say about nothing."

"Yeah. Well. That Maniac is crazy. Must have been texting. Look how far back. I can hardly see the driver. Yeah. Must be a girl texting. Or else an old lady with really scraggly bleached hair, in which case she must be demented, and most likely dehydrated as well."

When the Maniac caught up at a stop sign, I could see a little better. And when the Maniac decided, after sitting four cars back at the light, to suddenly veer into the right turn outlet, I deduced that the Maniac was a middle-aged drunk.

Whew! A crash would not bode well for Val Thevictorian. Her thin blood would have flowed like water from a wide-open fireplug spigot.

Does anybody have a thread-puller? Life's Rich Tapestry has a flaw that needs to be unraveled.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Judge, Jury, Executioner, Executive Food-Warmer, Social Secretary, Loan Officer, Psychologist, Psychic, Laundress, Chauffeur...and Now Chief of Security

Master of the house
Doling out the farm
Ready with a fist-shake
That implies alarm

Yesterday morning, Hick stalked to the front door before leaving for work. Normally, he stomps past me in the La-Z-Boy trying to grab six winks, throws open the laundry room door to feed the dogs on the back porch, tromps through the kitchen to grab his sausage-egg-muffin out of the microwave with two handles, and tells me "Bye" as soon as I've dialed the phone to talk to my mom.

I thought he was going to holler down to The Pony. Sometimes he does that. He's kind of fond of the little guy. But no. He grabbed the doorknob and rattled it. Made a big show. "Yesterday when I came home, this door was unlocked!"

Let the record show that Val and The Pony do not use the front door. We're kitchen door people. Hick is the one who uses the front door. He comes in from work through the kitchen, gets underfoot for a minute, then goes outside to tend his animals, and perhaps work a bit on his Little Barbershop of Horrors. Then he comes in either through the front or the kitchen with a handful of eggs, which he proceeds to rinse in my sink, a behavior which I have forbidden for nigh on four years now. It is not unusual for Hick to return to the wild after eating his supper that has been lovingly heated in the oven or warmed in the microwave by his faithful wife Val. Many's the time The Pony and I have heard the front door open and slam while we are watching our evening programs.

Oh, the outrage! That front door was left unlocked ALL DAY! Never mind that sometimes when I ascend from my dark basement lair in the wee hours, I see the knob is unlocked, and turn it to secure the homestead. I have mentioned this lapse in security to Hick before, but he swears it is fine, because he turns the deadbolt.

Intermittently, it would seem.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

More Than Packages Are Damaged Here

Monday I had to rush a package to Genius. Seems in his flurry of packing during the one day he had between the end of his summer job, and leaving for college for his RA training...he forgot the charger cable to his Surface. How he got by without it for these two weeks is a mystery to me. A mystery which I probably do not want to solve.

He had sent me a text Sunday night. Not so much Sunday night as 12:06 Monday morning. A request for The Pony to check Genius's room for that cable plugged in by the bed, or laying nearby. Sounds simple, unless you know Genius and his stable of electronic gewgaws. I went to look, because, well, it was after 1:00 a.m. when I saw the text. Of course I couldn't find it. I don't even know what a Surface is.

The Pony found that item toot sweet. I stuffed it in my school bag, just in case Genius decided to play the emergency card. Which he did. Texted me again saying he really needed that cable. So I told him I'd put it in the mail after school. Genius the experienced eBay seller told me to put it in a padded fixed rate priority mail envelope. Uh huh.

I rushed to the post office (not the dead-mouse-smelling post office in Backroads proper, because I didn't have time nor gas money nor desire to go there) while The Pony was examining blood spatter at his new after-school club for science, technology, engineering, and math. Okay. It was not so much BLOOD spatter as CORN SYRUP AND RED FOOD DYE spatter.

No one was in the lesser post office when I got there. I milled around looking at the packaging that took up one wall. I was not finding what my Genius sent me for. There was one employee working. I'm going to call him Slow Mike. No offense to the slow. Or to Mikes.

"I'm looking for a fixed rate priority mail envelope with padding." I saw where his eyes looked. There were none in that whole shelf deal.

"I don't see any."

"Oh." I went back to browsing, looking for something that might substitute. There was a little box that would hold the charger. It might rattle around inside, because I was NOT going to buy a roll of bubble wrap at the post office. You'd think Slow Mike could have offered me some of those shredded envelopes and magazine particles missing from the mail I get in a plastic bag with a sticker that says it arrived that way.

But Slow Mike was not interested in me. The customer. A man came in looking lost. He wandered around the packaging, too, and grabbed something not fixed rate, and went to the end of the counter to stuff an object inside. He was from the Slow family, too, from the looks of his endeavors.

"My son said to mail it in a padded envelope. Is there anything else that could work?"

"If you let me get rid of this guy, I'll look in the back. I thought we had some." Let the record show that the new guy who had wandered in did not take offense to being "gotten rid of" at all. Slow Mike took at least five minutes to send a registered letter for him. Then he disappeared into the back. Then he sprinted across the door to the other side of the back. Then he asked somebody something back there. Then he came out with an envelope. "Found one." He put it on the counter.

Oh, dear. It was white, as thin as a working girl's slip, with a lining of half-bubble wrap. I put the charger in there, and it clunked on the counter. This envelope was like a 9.5 x 11 manilla. Except white and dainty. I had no choice. I sealed the top. Slow Mike was fiddling with some electronic data entry.

"Here. I have the address on this note card. If you have some clear tape, you can just stick it on the envelope." Let the record show that Val has excellent printing penmanship, and is often told that she should be a draftsman. Or draft horse. One of those two. Slow Mike was not pickin' up what Val was layin' down. As in, he was not picking up that note card to affix it to the envelope. He looked really confused. Even for a slow guy. He pushed a little sticker at me. Like you might get at a convention, that says, "Hello. My Name is ___________." Only it just said "To:" and "From:"

"Do you want me to copy this address onto that sticker?"

"Yeah. That would be easier." In the meantime, Slow Mike took my address note card and started typing in data. "That will be $5.80." I paid him. He even gave me the correct change. Then he held out the note card. "Which address is right? There are two."

Paula Deen in my front yard eating a lobster tail! How can a postal worker not understand how addresses work in a post office? I have taken the civil service test for mail carrier. Piece of cake. You have to put addresses in order. And the first thing that little exam preparation book tells you is that you read the address from the bottom up. General to specific.

"There are not two addresses. See? The envelope will go to this city. Then to this street. Then to this dorm. Then to my son. It all belongs there." Slow Mike grunted. I stifled down my disgruntledness. I got that card back from him as soon as he was done entering what was probably the wrong info in the system. I moved over to copy down the address on the convention sticker. The guy from the other end of the counter moved over for service.

"I want to send this to India."

"Um. Just a minute. I'm not sure how to do that." Slow Mike got on the microphone and called for a lady from the back. She came out. Apparently Slow Junior had not packed his item correctly after all this time. The lady, let's call her Smarty, squeezed Slow Junior's package. NOT LIKE THAT! This is not a pr0n flick. No boom chicka wow wow.

"This is a cell phone."

"Uh huh. I sold it to a guy in India. He already put the money in my PayPal account. Now I need to send it to him."

"This is a cell phone. It has a lithium battery."

"I don't know if it has a lithium battery. Let me call my son."

"All cell phones have lithium batteries. We can't ship them by air."

"Then how will it get to India?"

"I don't think we can send it there by ground." Maybe she shouldn't be called Smarty.

"I'll take the battery out. Let me call my son and see how."

It was like watching a tennis match. Not at the championship level. Slow Mike's head must have been hurting. "Are you done with that?" He reached for my label. Then he kind of stood there, watching the Great India Phone Caper unfold. I had to get back to school to pick up The Pony.

I wanted to back out, keeping my eye on Slow Mike. But I didn't. I'm on blood thinners you know. So I couldn't risk a collision with another patron. I really hope Slow Mike put that sticker on the right package.

I don't want Genius's Surface cable flying to India.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Ain't THAT a Fine Stringer o' Fish?

Perhaps I've mentioned once or twice that Hick likes to hit the auction circuit a couple of times a week. He always finds some treasure or other. Hick is not one to come home empty-handed from the hunt. No Auction Meat? No problem. He can find other stuff to buy.

Like this:

Ain't they purty?

I suppose they could be called Wood Bass. This is one of the few gewgaw knickknack gimcrack whatnots he has hauled home that I actually kind of cotton to. He got them for five dollars. That's less than two dollars a fish!

According to Hick, a stringer alone would be five or six dollars itself at Walmart. Like he shops.

You might notice that Hick posed with his catch-of-the-night in front of his future Little Barbershop of Horrors. That's not his name for it. That's blog buddy Sioux's name for it. Which is frighteningly appropriate. I don't know how Hick made his hand look like it has five fingers and a thumb. It's just one of his freaky skills, I guess. And you might notice that he does not manscape his forearm. Which is all we'll say about that.

When asked what he plans to do with his catch, Hick replied, "Hang 'em in my barbershop!"

Of course. Everybody knows that's what you do with a stringer of wooden fish. Hang it in your homemade barbershop.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Routine Rituals and Good Luck Charms

You know how athletes are superstitious when they're on a winning streak, and wear the same socks or underwear without washing them? Or maybe that's just how they smell. But anyhoo...Val knows how they feel. Not stinky, of course. But she's pickin' up what they're layin' down. You don't want to change anything when a particular facet of your life is going well. Not that athletes know what a facet is. Are you kidding? They don't even know what a faucet is! Have you smelled some of those guys? But seriously...

The first full week of school just about put a nail in Val's coffin. It was all I could do to drag myself through the day. Not to mention the week. I think it's my medicine. The one I'm supposed to be on until May. We'll see about that. On Monday, I was so achy in the knees that I could hardly walk. My stomach hurt. I was nauseous, weak, exhausted, and in tears on the way to school and on the way home. That is not Val's style. Believe it or not, I really do like my job. Sure, maybe you could see why I might cry about coming home to Hick's shenanigans...but that's totally not me. I had to lie down for a half hour to regain my strength before I could go about my household duties.

So I did what any sensible person who dodged death by pulmonary embolisms would do, and quit taking my blood-thinner. Not forever. I stopped for three days. The doctors tell you that, you know. To stop if you're going to the dentist, or having surgery. "Oh, no. It won't hurt you. You'll be fine!" Yeah. So I stopped for three days. And I was fine. And I could walk normally, and my head was clear, and I was no more tired than a normal work day after a summer off. It was glorious. But Friday I went back on that thinner. Saturday and Sunday were miserable again, joints aching, unable to sleep without turning often, neck pain, unsteadiness. And this morning, this MONDAY morning...I felt kind of okay.

I don't know what's going on here. I'm planning to see my regular doctor so he can check with my lung doctor to see if there's a lower dose, or if I can simply switch to aspirin as promised, way back on my hospital bed, after three months on the blood-thinner.

Since today was kind of okay, I am trying to be a thin-blooded athlete and not vary my routine from yesterday. Maybe I can keep feeling all right for a while. I'll admit, I stopped short of walking through Walmart for forty-five minutes like I did yesterday. But I'm trying to eat the same things, spend the same amount of time sitting at the computer, sitting in the recliner, standing in the kitchen, etc. I also stopped short at counting the number of black olive slices I put on my super nachos. That would just be silly. I don't know how many I had on there last night.

Now I must prepare to fast-forward through my recording of the Cardinals game, eat a few Twizzler bites, fall asleep in the basement recliner from 10:10 until 1:00, and sleep in my bed from 1:15 until 4:50.

Stand back. I'm on a roll. But I'm not smelly yet.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Ol' Bait and Switch

Hick has been building a hay shed. He decided that he does not want to load his hay bales in the Gator at the BARn, and drive them over to the goat pen for the goats and minipony. While it's no big deal in summer, fall, or spring, I can imagine this task to be unpleasant in the winter.

Hick had some scrap lumber that he picked up from work a while back, and more from here and there that he used to set Genius to pulling nails from. Genius, though reluctant, was a much better Hick's Apprentice than The Pony. He also had some roofing tin left over from some project that he coerced his oldest son to climb up on the roof and attach. Hick is now putting the finishing touches on his structure, having bought $140 worth of plywood and screws on Friday. Which is not to say that his creation looks like a finished product.

Today I said something to Hick about his hay shed.

"Oh. It's not a hay shed anymore. I'm going to make it my barber shop. I'll put my barber chair in there, and a bunch of my auction stuff."

So basically, he's been building himself a playhouse. Never mind that Hick is not a barber. He has an old-timey chair that he got about 15 years ago. He has clippers, which he used on his sons before they got wise to what they looked like after a shearing. And he has a knack for talking. He's always said that one day he wants to open a barber shop. He even went so far, when quizzed by me on why places like that must have proprietors with a license, as to suggest enrolling in the beauty school just up the road a piece. So he could get a barber's license alongside 18-year-old girls learning to cut hair.

I think this shed is more of a project like his one-room schoolhouse he built down by the creek. He's not really teaching school out of it. Then again, I can't be sure Hick is not planning to put that barber shop on a trailer and haul it around to give impromptu haircuts, picking up stakes just ahead of inspectors from the State Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners. I suppose my first clue might be when he brings home a barber pole.

Maybe he's going to pull that little shop of Hick-horrors to town, onto the parking lot of his regular barber shop, and siphon off a little business until Johnny comes out and kicks his butt. And while we're revisiting Johnny's, let me share a disappointing fact. I found out at the faculty lunch table last week that there really IS a waiting period of two hours at Johnny's on a Saturday morning! Found it out from another dude who, like Hick, has barely enough hair to cut.

So there you have it. Hick hoodwinked me into believing he was building a hay shed, spent money I did not give him, and emerged from the ordeal with a sweet little barber shop.

I don't know what the goats and minipony will have to say about this.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Internet Means Never Having to Pay Your Billing

Greetings, all, from Deadbeat Val. You remember Deadbeat Val, don't you? The one who did not pay her DISH bill in July, right after switching her internet service to DISH and having that installer guy bend the downspout, and got an automated call telling her that her account was past due?

So she looked back in her trusty checkbook register, and saw that the phone was right! Indeed, Deadbeat Val had not paid her July bill because she did not receive her July bill. She immediately called DISH and paid by credit card within five minutes of that phone recording, figuring that her Clearasil-stealing mailman or the dead-mouse-smelling post office had delivered that bill to the wrong box. Or perhaps a rural thief had helped himself to EmBee's innards, like that year one stole both electric bills, the telephone bill, and Deadbeat Val's back-to-school letter with important dates and new hires and contract adjustments.

So this morning, Deadbeat Val was puttering around with the automated service for her checking account, trying to balance that account which has not balanced even one time, since Deadbeat Val became Mrs. Never-Record-a-Transaction Hick. But that's okay. Because Deadbeat Val leaves a pillowy cushion of funds in that account, just in case.

So after checking up on the checking account, and then calling her single credit card automated service to prepare for bill-paying Friday next dawned upon Deadbeat Val that she had not received her DISH bill for August. Surely it was time. Time to be reminded that she owed for not only her TV usage, but also for her internet connection.

So Deadbeat Val looked back in her stash of statements, and saw that her DISH bill used to be mailed out on the 10th of the month. What with today being the 23rd of the month, Deadbeat Val smelled something stinky in Backroads. She picked up that phone and called the DISH customer service number. It really did not want her to talk to a person. But after perseverance, Deadbeat Val reached Marquis.

Marquis was a lovely young man, so polite, with a barely discernible accent, so unlike those customer service reps "Susan" and "Bob" who gave Genius such a hard time trying to sort out some HP computer warranty nonsense at the tender age of ten. While waiting for them to return from checking with a supervisor, Genius turned to me and said, "I don't really think they are giving me their real names."

So Marquis asked how he could help me, and I explained that I had not received my paper bill for the month of July, and I still did not have it for the month of August. I told him that all I wanted was to receive my bill so I could pay it on time. That must be an uncommon request for DISH, because Marquis said he would access my account, and then said, "So you have a question concerning your most recent bill of $XXX.xx?"

So I told him no, that first of all I did not even know the amount of my bill because I NEVER RECEIVED ONE. I had no issue with the amount, because I did not know the amount. Poor Marquis. He just was not picking up what I was laying down, as The Pony would have termed it, thinking that all people talk the way they did back in their high school days of hippyism, as he has previously insinuated. I told Marquis that all I wanted was to get a bill in the mail so I could pay it on time.

So Marquis said, "I see here that you do not get bills by mail." And I told him that I most certainly did, for the past fifteen years, at this same address, and had paid every one on time except for that last one in July that I never received. And Marquis said, "I am looking at your account right now, and the box for paper billing is checked 'No.'" I told Marquis that I WANT PAPER BILLING. And he suddenly understood. "I am checking that box 'Yes' and sending you a copy of your bill for this month." A copy of the bill I never got.

So I thanked Marquis, and patted myself on the back for being so proactive as to go on a search for my bill before I even got a call that it was past due.

Deadbeat Val leaves no stone unturned in maintaining her excellent credit rating. You never know when she might want to finance a proposed handbasket factory.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Trial By Kindle Fire

It's back-to-school season. And you know that THAT means!


Uh huh. What better time to cram in all the emergency drill procedures that the first full week of classes? Gotta get those kiddos ready to run. Never mind that I have yet to talk to a kid that remembers the first week of school.

So we had an intruder drill on Monday, after which a young man declared, "I never want to stand that close to Bob again!" Let the record show that the name has been changed to protect the obnoxious.

Throughout the week, we also evaded a tornado, dashed from a faux burning building, and survived a New-Madrid-level tremor. Those poor freshmen must think we are the unluckiest campus in the world.

It's the fire escape that commanded my attention. All because of The Pony. He stuck his Kindle Fire under my nose last night. "Look at this." I was in the middle of something which I can't remember, but nothing more important than interacting with my youngest son, who rarely comes forward and shares with me, preferring to have information drug out of him by hook or by crook.

"Oh. That's nice." It was one of his classmates, standing in front of a whiteboard in The Pony's last class of the day. I was surprised that he had bothered to take a picture on his Kindle Fire. Which is kind of ironic, I suppose. You be the judge when you hear all the facts. If there's one thing Val's not an expert on, it's irony.

"Look at her."

"I did. Why did you have your Kindle out taking pictures? I thought that wasn't allowed."

"It was this time. See?"

I looked again. The poor little gal had a sign around her neck. A homemade laminated sign. Which declared that she had just burned to death in a fire, and nobody even noticed. Then I understood. When we have drills, the drill-holders spirit away a few kids and hide them. Just to test us. One year a big strapping basketball player was told to lay down in the classroom during an earthquake drill, and refuse to leave the building. "I'm hurt!" he declared. "My leg is broken. I can't walk." The teacher thought he was pulling a prank. She grew quite agitated. Demanded that he get up, the fun was over. She tried to pull him out the door. He screamed that she was hurting his broken leg. By the time the support staff came by to check her room, she was in tears, almost hysterical. But she received high praise, because she did not abandon her student.

"How did that happen? Didn't you tell the teacher that she was missing?"

"Not my job."

"What about her friends?"

"No. They didn't say a word. And they're her really good friends, too."

"I guess they WERE. Now she's burned up. How could your teacher not know? We have to take our rosters and take roll."

"Our teacher is also in charge of the kids in the room next door. The ones who take web classes. She got all of them. She took a picture of her seating chart so she would have it on her phone when she went out, but the phone cut the little burned-up girl's name off the picture."

Huh. Technology failed us this week. A student fake-burned-up. But one thing held constant.

The Pony really does not care very much about helping people.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

You Want Salt? You Can't Handle the Salt!

With the start of a new school year comes new knowledge. Take, for instance, what I learned yesterday at the Semi-Weekly Meeting of the Backroads Faculty Lunchtime Think Tank.

One of my lunchtime companions sat down with a shaker of salt. No. She was not wasting away again in Margaritaville, but she may or may not have been wearing flip-flops. The salt and pepper and mustard and a large clear plastic bowl of dill pickle chips and a can of industrial-strength ketchup with a pump on top sit on a cart in the cafeteria, near the exit door from the kitchen lunch line. Depending on the meal, and what flavors need to be drowned out, there may also be a squirt bottle of mayonnaise, or an opaque plastic jar of ranch dressing with a lid pump.

"Shh...don't let the kids know I have this. They are not allowed to use the salt."

"Since when?"

"Since this year."

"Is that because they are irresponsible? Like...did they loosen the lid so it all came pouring out?"

"No. I wish. They are not allowed to use the salt because they can't have salt. It's not allowed. It's banned. Like sugar soda. And everything else they might like."

"Why don't we just give them a paper plate to eat? No salt. No sugar. Plenty of fiber. They'd like it about as well as these lunches."

"I know!"

This morning I asked The Pony if he knew that kids are not allowed to have salt in the cafeteria.

"Uh huh. It doesn't bother me. I bring my lunch. But some of them are going crazy. We can't have salt because we can't handle it. Put air quotes around that. I'm being sarcastic. But that's what the cooks told one of the kids when he asked for salt."

Maybe, if the cooks were allowed to actually start cooking food again, and could slop it on the trays in amounts the students can enjoy, and stop warming up this over-processed pre-packaged garbage they are forced to buy from the cheapest vendor...sodium would not be an issue.

Just sayin'.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

To the Victorian, None of the Spoils

It was, perhaps, not the best time to bring it up.

Before work, in passing, like two ships in the morning, I reminded Hick of an eye doctor appointment next Tuesday, filled him in on my last communication with Genius, confessed that I did not take my blood-thinner last night on purpose, and off-handedly mentioned that The Pony’s senior ring will be here next Thursday.

That’s the thing with those rings. The kids order them their sophomore year, with a moderate deposit, so they can win the lottery, receive an inheritance, discover gold in them thar hills, pick up cans every day, or inform long-lost relatives of their birthday. Then when the bill comes due a year later, the kid picks up the ring. I swear, I don’t know how some of these kids can afford it. They would have to work all summer behind the fast-food counter and apply every last cent to this once-in-a-lifetime purchase.

The Pony’s ring balance is in the upper three figures. I told Hick the price. “Yeah. I’ve gotta come up with blankety-blank dollars by next Thursday. And you don’t get paid until Friday." It’s a once-a-month paycheck for Hick, and twice-a-month for me, which doesn’t come until after Labor Day.

Hick said, “Huh.”

Funny how he didn’t seem to be overjoyed at The Pony’s excitement to slide that ring onto his hot little hoof.

“Yeah, I don’t see how kids do it, either.”

“It’s the most important thing next to graduation for a lot of these kids. Even when they come back with kids of their own, they talk about that senior ring. Some of them are even wearing their own.”

“I remember how mine was such a big deal. Of course, I didn’t have anybody to pay for it except myself. I worked hard to earn that money.” Let the record show that Hick started working at the age of 14.

Hick stood beside my his La-Z-Boy, shaving a few minutes off my morning recliner-nap. I could tell something was on his mind.

“You know how I’ve been telling your about my boss, and how he’s been thinking of getting rid of that trailer at work?”

“Not really.”

“Well, he’s been saying he’s getting rid of it for over a year and a half. I told him I could use it if he ever wanted to sell it. Yesterday, he said I could have it for $400. But that’s okay. This is not a good time.”

I was joking with him, but he thought I was serious. “As long as you're the one to tell The Pony that he won’t be picking up his senior ring…”

“I would never keep that boy from getting his senior ring. That’s important.” Hick walked over to the steps and looked through the rail at The Pony, who was laying on the basement couch with his laptop before getting ready for school. “Hey, Pony! Have a good day at school. Are you excited about getting your ring next week?”


Hick went to feed the animals and warm his breakfast biscuit. Which, I might add, he does in the microwave with two handles.

My big scratch-off winner from June will almost pay for both the ring and the trailer. I knew there was a reason I didn't touch that money yet.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Livin' in a Hamster Paradise

As I walk across the rugs of the master bathroom
I take a look at my foot and realize it's not too soon
'Cause I been limpin' and gripin' so long
That even my mom knows that something is wrong

But I ain't never crossed a man that didn't deserve it
Okay yes I did but I'm sure you understand--Hick!
This time he's gone too far trackin' junk in on his boots
We need to have a talk but the point is prob'ly moot

Been spendin' too much time, livin' in a hamster paradise

Vallio has an issue. That issue is the ruthless boot hygiene of one Hick Thevictorian. That man tracks in enough flotsam and jetsam to clog the big drain hole at the bottom of the ocean. A girl-foot ain't safe in a bathroom full of Hick. I cannot walk across the tile and rugs without having tiny pebbles or hunks of cedar shavings stick to the bottom (heh, heh, I said bottom) of my feet. That man needs a little dude with a push broom to follow him through the house. Just when I think the area is safe, my tender princess heel is jabbed again.

Oh, don't think for one hot New York minute that Hick's donations are confined to the bathroom. Nope. This house would make a good hamster cage. Now that you're thinking it (don't deny it, I see it in your thought bubble), Val DOES resemble one of those Kia car-driving hamsters. With a bit less flashy wardrobe, of course.

The floor is lined with cedar chips. There is a plethora of paper from CASE Knife adds to auto insurance cards to scrappy receipts that can be shredded by my pointy teeth in the event I come down with a nesting mood, and the steps up and down to my dark basement lair are my exercise wheel. Some might even say my cheeks look like those of a hamster when stuffed full of food pellets and bedding material.

Yes. Vallio is living in a hamster paradise.

Monday, August 18, 2014

This Ain't My First Do-Re-Do

Every now and then, Val appropriates a song title, changes it to fit her agenda, and slaps it up top on her post to act as a title. I'm sure that's news to everyone but the CHAIRMAN OF THE BLOG TITLE APPROPRIATION COMMITTEE , who so kindly inquired about my plagiaristis propensities in yesterday's comments.

I've half a mind to choose Jerry Jeff Walker's "Why Don't We Get Drunk and Screw" as my next title, just to cause the CHAIRMAN to write up a report. That song is out there if you want to listen to it, but all I could find was Jimmy Buffet's version. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Funny how this topic came up. Only this morning, I was enlightening The Pony on how to approach women. Rather, on how to get high school girls to talk to him. I got the inspiration from the radio.

"You know, Pony, you should try that. Listen to this song right now. 'If I said you had a beautiful body would you hold it against me?' How's that? Or this one: 'If I swore you were an angel, would you treat me like the devil tonight?' Uh huh. You've gotta make them notice you. Something like, 'Judging from the cover, I'd love to read the book.' That's a whole other song. But you get my drift."

"Those are bar pick-up lines for drunk people! Um. No. Besides, I heard a better one than that at Missouri Scholars Academy this summer. 'Before I came here, I was like a computer with no wi-fi. But when I met you, I felt a connection.'"

"Yeah. Don't really use those I gave you when you talk to girls. You'll get slapped across the face."

There is danger, you see, in using lyrics and titles indiscriminately. Leave such activities to Val. The professional.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

I'm a Gray-Hair, I'm a Croc-Wearer, I'm a Late Debt-Payer, I Take My Notebook On the Run

Well, the school year is simply flying by. Only 173 days left for me. That's 172 for the kids.

Yes, I returned to work last Monday for the annual all-school catered breakfast and full-day meetings. Let me tell you this about that: festival seating is not my friend.

Every year, from way back when I was but a toddler learning at the knee of my best ol' ex-teaching buddy Mabel, our little group sat at the same table. Sure, maybe there was one year when we sat at the one right next to it. But we were creatures of habit. Anybody could tell you where anybody else would be sitting. As a precaution, I was assigned table duty. That's because my room was the closest to the cafeteria. So I would go in about 20 minutes before meeting time and mark our territory with a folder, itinerary, pencil, pen, water bottle, set of keys. Reserved. That's just how it was. Until this year.

Perhaps I grew lax. Fat and sassy from years of giant cinnamon rolls. Perhaps the cinnamon rolls are to blame. We have not had them for several years, since our caterer went out of business. Scrambled EggBeaters full of red and green peppers are not such a drawing card. So excuse me if I was five minutes late in going out to stake our claim. We're down to only three regulars now, anyway, for the breakfast.


TAKEN! Like seats at a showing of Checkmate at the Paragon, until Elaine was overpowered and had to go watch Rochelle, Rochelle at the Paradise Twin.

What a fine kettle of fish THAT was! Nobody ever wanted our seats. Until now. Because this year, we were the row that was allowed to feed first at the breakfast buffet. Uh huh. Every year, a different row of tables gets that privilege. I swear the sequence is written in stone and given to Price Waterhouse for safekeeping. So now I had let my cronies down. All I could do was stake out the very long 8-person table vacated by the usurpers. How pitiful it looked, three seats saved.

I abandoned my post to go sign in at the table out front by the trophy case. Of course it's nothing as simple as signing next to your name on a printed list. You must go down the table gauntlet, like a child in a birthday party spanking machine, except nobody touches your butt. There are MSTA reps to contend with. I don't go for that check-withholding stuff, so I am one of four folks who get their form and send it in with a check. For this outlay of low three-figures, I am allowed to pick up a pocket calendar with the MSTA logo.

What I really wanted was the little mini flip-top spiral notebook. To get that, I had to join CTA. I have a love-hate relationship with CTA. That's the Community Teachers Association, I believe. Our local organization. I don't mind forking over ten bucks to join. But I draw the line at forking over thirty bucks. Which is what happened one year when I paid the building rep, who gave it to the treasurer but forgot to record it, then put me on the delinquent pay list round about December, so I paid again, because nobody believed me, only to find myself put on notice like a check-kiter on a convenience store cash register list in April for not having paid my dues. I put my foot down. Demanded that records be checked so I could be allowed to vote on next year's calendar without paying triple. Well. What do you know? The records showed that I had already paid twice that year. So I was handed ten dollars and allowed to vote.

Woe was me. I had only a five and four ones in my pocket this back-to-school breakfast morning. What I wanted to say was, "I will gladly pay you one of these days for a membership today." But I didn't. You know they would have not appreciated my smart-buttiness. So I looked really sad, and said, "I only have nine dollars. But I can bring you a dollar tomorrow." Because you know if I waited to pay until tomorrow, that sweet swag pile would be gone, baby, gone!

The rep and treasurer looked at each other. Like they didn't know where to find me to break my legs with a baseball bat if I didn't pay up. "I guess that's okay. Go ahead and take a notebook." The librarian was sitting at the end of the table. "I'll cover it for you." I snagged a little blue spiral, happy as a clam. There was a pile of Sharpie Accent Pocket Style Highlighters in the colors of the rainbow, but I did not push my luck. Imagine my chagrin when I returned to my breakfast table in the middle of the cafeteria and saw that some people had three mini-spirals and a couple of highlighters.

Even Steven then smiled upon me, because instead of my new breakfast table going to the buffet last, as per the usual schedule...we were sent second! I guess even Price Waterhouse screws the pooch some days. And I was again rewarded by a pan of EggBeaters that did NOT have peppers, and was not floating in steam water. Uh huh. I had some eggs, bacon (though it was as see-through and floppy as onionskin paper), sausage links, biscuit, gravy, cantaloupe chunks, and watermelon cubes. It was actually tasty, and I was finished before the speakers began.

Then the day took a dastardly turn again. We finished that three-hour meeting with fifteen minutes to spare. An announcement was made that we should report for the technology meeting in the main computer lab. I took time for a potty break, which would have been so much easier from my other table, since it is where we can sneak out unnoticed during the PowerPoints to do our business. I grabbed a bottle of water, and paper for taking notes, and my laptop, which was a required item. I scrounged four quarters from my top desk drawer, and hurried to the CTA treasurer to clear my debt. Didn't want my mini-spiral to be repossessed. Then I headed on down to the lab to get a good seat. One my my cronies was there, also. We grabbed the prime area where the desktops had been moved aside. Three other colleagues were chatting, waiting for stuff to start. Then another came in and announced, "Um, the meeting is in the library, and the guy is waiting for everybody so he can start."

Well. Wasn't that a fine how-do-you-do! This misdirection was bigger than the Great Mabel Chinese Buffet Lunchtime Debacle. We snatched up our stuff and hurried across the hall. Thank goodness the only people at our regular table there were the tech guys. I shoved my laptop down and said, "Oh, are you guys sitting here?" They retreated to the back of the room, to the counter along the wall with the library desktops. Touche'. Score one for Val.

The rest of the day was fairly uneventful. Will I make sure to stake out my table earlier next year during the back-to-school breakfast? Not likely. Nobody will want the area that goes last.

Besides. It will be my last year. I won't even notice a stolen table with my head in the clouds.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Saturday Morning Backroads Justice

Hick took off for his weekly haircut this morning at 7:00. I'm sure he doesn't need a haircut every week. He barely even has hair. But that's always his excuse when he leaves at 7:00 and doesn't return until 10:00 or 11:00.

At 9:40, Hick called to report that he was going to drop off his prescriptions at the pharmacy, then go look around Goodwill for a while.

"What have you been doing for over two-and-a-half hours?"

"Getting a haircut."

"Sure. You wouldn't even wait that long for a doctor's appointment."

"It takes time, Val. I have to wait. There are always ten or twelve guys there." Sure. On a Saturday morning, there's a rush on haircuts. I've seen that shop. You can look right in the window. There's not even ten chairs around the walls for waiters. No pool table. No magazines. Just the barber chair in the center, and a few red nondescript chairs ringing the walls for waiters to sit in.

"That's hard to believe." It's not like Hick is getting a haircut from Jose Eber. It's some good ol' boy who has this box-like building at a 4-way stop, catty-corner from an auto parts store, across one street from an abandoned former gas station that used to do car inspections in the manner of "You pay me, your car passes," and across the other street from a tiny decrepit trailer where sno cones are dispensed at odd hours on various days, depending on the mood of the proprietress.

"I shoot the bull with the other guys until it's my turn." Hard to believe Hick is always last, what with leaving home at 7:00 for the ten-minute trip.

"This morning we saw a fight! A car pulled into the parking lot with another car right on its tail. At first I thought a woman got out. That it was some kind of domestic abuse she was running away from. Then we saw it was a little guy with gray hair. A big guy jumped out of the second car and started screaming, 'You pulled right out in front of me and almost made me wreck!' The Big Guy looked to be about 40, and started swinging at the Little Guy. The Little Guy fought back. He was actually getting the best of it, even though he looked around 60. We all ran out to watch. The Big Guy was about my size. He threw his keys at the Little Guy's face, and they bounced off, and hit Johnny the Barber's truck! Johnny got mad then. 'Mister, now you're messing with my truck. I've got a problem with that.' He stepped up to the Big Guy. Johnny's a big boy. He's about a head-and-a-half taller than that Big Guy. So the Big Guy said okay, and held up his hands, and left. He didn't want no part of Johnny."

"They told me to call the police while it was happening. I dialed 311, the non-emergency number, and nobody answered. Anyway, by then, both guys were gone. We all went back inside to talk about it. Johnny said, 'Nothing like that has ever happened here.' And I told him, 'Yeah, but I bet that's not the first fight that parking lot has saw.' It used to be a bar right across the street."

Can you imagine Hick calling the NON-emergency number for the police? Because when a fight just erupted on the barber shop parking lot, what you want is the dispatcher to tell the cops, "You can put your feet up and have another donut. It's not an emergency. You can drop by later and see what's going on."

There you have it. What really goes on when Hick leaves early in the morning and does not return for hours. Apparently, there's some kind of fight club in Backroads. Now Hick has violated the first law of fight club.

I imagine his punishment will result in being moved to the end of the haircutting line next Saturday.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Like Sands Through the Hourglass, This is the Delivery of Our Mail

Ahhhh...Friday! That's one week of school under my belt. And since the week of school consisted of only two days, I had plenty of room under that belt for some frozen custard!

The Pony and I met my mom on her church parking lot, and proceeded to the not-very-good-but-at-least-nearby custard stand. For the record, The Pony had a chocolate sundae, Mom had a vanilla cone, and I had a Hawaiian Delight concrete made with chocolate custard. It was not so much of a delight. More of a surprise. Who puts strawberries in a Hawaiian concrete? I was expecting bananas and pineapple and coconut, but not the added strawberries. Quite curious, the license this treat-purveyor takes with my taste buds.

But this is not about my afternoon delight. This is about THE MAIL.

We usually get our mail between 11:00 and 1:00. I know that, because all summer when I drove to town each day for a beverage or some lottery tickets or to pick up a package at the dead-mouse-smelling post office, I would stop for the mail when I returned home. So when The Pony and I got behind a car stopped at a mailbox near the beginning of our county road this evening, I thought it was kids fooling around.

Let the record show that the time was 4:45 p.m. The car was a white, newer-model Jeep. Not a fancy Jeep like a Cherokee or anything of that sort. A regular Jeep with a hard top and a short wheelbase. It used to be called a Jeep CJ5, as opposed to the long wheelbase Jeep CJ7 that my dad had in baby blue with a wide dark-blue stripe and a black hardtop.

So...the white Jeep pulled over at a roadside mailbox with its flashers on. A blond girl yanked open the mailbox door and shoved in an envelope. She shoved the door shut, but it fell down. She left it, and the driver proceeded to the next mailbox. She was blond, too.

"Look, Pony. Those girls are putting stuff in mailboxes. At first I thought they were delivering the paper. But you can't put that in a mailbox. You have to have a little container by  itself for the paper. So they must be stuffing invitations or some political ads in the mailboxes along here. That's against the law."

"Huh." Said The Pony. All interested and such. I don't even think he turned his head to see that single white envelope the gal had put in the gaping mailbox.

We finally got around the Jeep. I looked in my rearview mirror. Yep. They even stopped at the old cow-lady's house. So much for the invitation theory. Must be political.

"We'll get our mail, and then sit on the gravel road by the creek until they come along. Then we will know for sure what they're putting in the mailboxes."

"Huh." Said The Pony. Not at all his bubbly after-school self, who only yesterday agreed with my every statement, in fact telling me, "I'm a-pickin' up what you're layin' down. As you people would say back in your era."

I pulled over near EmBee's mailbox row. The Pony hopped out and trotted over to peer into her gullet. He looked at me with not very much fondness at all. "No mail."

We turned onto the gravel and waited for that Jeep. In the down time, The Pony revealed that his phone was dead. At least that means he had been socializing by device, and was disappointed that he could no longer socialize by device until he got home to his charger.

The Jeep topped the hill and sped down to EmBee. One of the blond gals climbed out and fished around in the back seat for more envelopes. After they finally filled up all residents of mailbox row, the Jeep sped away again. The Pony trotted back to see what was inside EmBee.


What in the Sam Hill is going on here? Why such a late delivery? And these blondies didn't even have a U.S. Mail magnetic sticker on their bumper.

I almost expect a delivery on Sunday by a cheerful whistling substitute.

Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail shall keep the postwomen from their appointed rounds. But look out for the sands of time.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

How Much Blood Would a Blood-Letter Let if a Blood-Letter Did Let Blood?

I have grown complacent. Fat and sassy, hobbling around with thin blood, on knees that creak and argue because the Tibia-Fibula family wants to go one way, and Old Man Femur wants to go another. Yes. Except for the aching bones and muscles, which I know are a side effect even though the pharmaceutical family does not list it right up there with sudden death, I have resigned myself to life until May as a thin-blooded person.

Sure, I still curse at drivers coming at me over the center line, and take one hand off the wheel to shake my fist at them for almost killing me in a collision that would result in my blood spouting like Old Faithful...but I have kind of forgotten that I'm taking a blood-thinner.

Until last night.

I have been very careful, you see, not to bump or slice or internally injure myself. For three months I have survived life's jostling without incident.

Until last night.

Hick built my desk space in my dark basement lair. It's a corner affair. Hick put in two sets of cabinets with drawers, and laid some butcher-block laminated countertop across them. So I can have a high desk with a stool (salvaged by Hick from a bar). Then he put in two sections of V-shaped countertop in the corner, lower, so I can sit in my rolly chair at my New Delly in that V, with comfortable counter space upon which to rest each arm. No carpal tunnel syndrome for Val! Hick put in another high section on top of a cabinet at my right hand, holding my laser printer. It's the next best thing to an apartment with no furniture, only levels covered by a bunch of pillows, favored by hipster doofuses.

Last night, as I reached to the left for my glasses in their case on the upper counter, I raked my left forearm against the corner of the countertop. I heard a scraping noise, kind of like an icepick across old leather.

Did you know that thin blood flows out quite quickly? Sorry, Best Ol' Ex-Teaching Buddy Mabel, for that description. It wasn't exactly a river. That's because there were just two little spots, about as far apart as snake fangs, that went deeper into the scratch. Blood bubbled up and dripped over the side of my arm. I dabbed at it with some Puffs With Aloe. After a couple of times, the spouting turned to little bubbles that got a coating and stopped flowing. I left them to harden.

This morning, after my shower, I saw that my blood was again flowing like syrup from a mighty Maple. I slapped a BandAid on it and went off to my first day of school. Not that I was trying to attract attention to my infirmity. For that, I would have put a fancy Angry Birds BandAid on it at work. Nope. Just the flesh-colored one, which matches nobody's flesh, unless that body was born in a Crayola Crayon box with the last name of Flesh, whose parents changed the family name to Peach.

I'm going to take it off later tonight. The BandAid, that is! Don't get your hopes up. I hope my platelets and fibrin can take time out from their year-long vacation to phone in a little work.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Culinary Adventure

I just got back from the doctor, and boy are my arms tired! WAIT! That's not right. That's what happens when I just fly in from Tulsa. But I DID just get back from the doctor, with a glowing report after my recent outpatient surgery, and an appointment for February, I don't know why, now that I'm healed after never even being sick in that department. Oh, well. Those sick days aren't going to use themselves, huh, Mabel?

Do you know how much I hated leaving school early today to get to that appointment? Yeah. About this much, though I might be overestimating my sorrow.

On the way back, nigh on 2:30 p.m. according to T-Hoe's sundial (okay, T-Hoe has as many gadgets as a Swiss Army Knife, but a sundial isn't one of them--I'm fibbing), we stopped for lupper. That's because we missed lunch, and I was not about to volunteer to make supper a couple hours after eating.

Hick started out looking for Outback Steakhouse. As with so many of Hick's grand schemes, he could not find the Outback. So he did the next best thing...took me to a little Chinese restaurant next to the Goodwill store. I think he said Goodwill. It could have been a flea market or antique store for all I know. And if the little Chinese restaurant had been a snake, it would have bit him, as far as Hick knew. He kept talking about it, and driving around a strip mall (that's little shops in a long building, not an adult entertainment area), saying he had eaten there and the food was really good, but he just couldn't seem to remember where it was.

"Oh, do you mean Liu Shun Wok?"

"Yeah. I guess so. Do you see it?"

"Right there."

"Yeah. That's it. It's not a buffet. Just a little place. But the food was good. I think."

You might think that with "Shun Wok" in the name, it might be best to continue looking for the outback. But the food in that little restaurant was quite delicious. We had the lunch special for $4.65. That's right. $4.65! Can't beat that with a stick! Can't beat that with Val-in-a-Recliner! For our $4.65, I had the stir-fried cashew chicken with steamed rice, two crab rangoon, and hot-and-sour soup. Hick had the Hunan chicken with fried rice, two crab rangoon, and hot-and-sour soup. Perhaps I've mentioned that I'm a big fan of hot-and-sour soup. This was fantastic! I daresay it was better than my favorite here in Backroads. Hick, not normally a fan of soup that is liquid, also enjoyed it. I had him pegged for an egg-drop man, but he slurped up every drop of his hot-and-sour liquid.

There was just one problem. I'm used to drinking my soup, not eating it with a round soup spoon. Of course I couldn't do that in public, out of a glass bowl, rather than in my dark basement lair, out of a plastic quart container. Still, the soup was tasty. As was my cashew chicken. Did I say there was only one problem? Make that two. On my second bite of steamed rice with cashews, chicken, celery, and carrot...I broke a tooth. Maybe. There was a terrible, horrendous grinding clicking sound from my right jaw area. So loud that even Hick heard it, and he was told just this week that he has profound hearing loss and could benefit from a hearing aid. But I felt no pain. Not about Hick's hearing loss. About that white thing that I picked out of my mouth that Hick held out his hand for, inspected with his one eye, and declared that it COULD be a piece of tooth, or a piece of rice that wasn't steamed, or a piece of bone from the dicing of the chicken. Mmm...doesn't that make you want to run out to Liu Shun Wok? It should. Because that food was a tasty bargain, and I did not begrudge the proprietors the possible breakage of my enamel. Yes, I continued eating.

Let the record show that Hick and I were the only people in the restaurant. Hick said it seemed like a Mom and Pop place, but I thought it was more of a Mom and Son place. What it really reminded me of was Babu's Pakistani restaurant, the one very, very bad man Jerry Seinfeld encouraged him to open, which never had any customers besides Jerry and Kramer and perhaps Elaine taking an IQ test for George.

I'm not trying to be a snob. But I don't think the health department had ever crossed the threshold of Liu Shun Wok. I looked at my plate, and then at Hick's plate. Mine was plain white (well, many years ago I imagine it had been white, which had kind of faded to gray) and Hick's had a faint pattern of a flower etched upon it.

"I think our plates came from Goodwill."

"It wouldn't surprise me. You can buy dishes all day long at the auction, for two, three dollars for a set. I never buy dishes unless there's one that I really like."

I'm sure Goodwill washes the dishes before they sell them, right? Anyhoo...the meal was very flavorful, and the service good enough. When we went in and sat down, I had told Hick, "This looks like a small businessman trying to make a go of it. Short of finding bugs in the food, you should leave a decent tip." Even though I found a surprise in my food or mouth, I was still game for the tip. Hick left four dollars.

My mom would have been outraged. She thinks two dollars is the proper amount of tip for a full service meal, no matter what the cost.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Eight Pens a Day

Sing that. Like The Beatles.

Ooh I need my pens, folks,
Guess you know it's true.
Please don't take my pens, folks,
Or I'll get back at you.
I looked down at my schoolteacher desk this afternoon, and saw eight pens laid out. EIGHT. Let the record show that I can only write with one at a time. Maybe two if I want to show off my ambidextrousness (not to be confused with maltodextrose, like that little kid warned Eddie Murphy about in Daddy Day Care). There was no need for eight pens. Yet there was. 

I had taken a black inker out of the desk drawer to write an address on an envelope. It wasn’t my favorite PaperMate Write Brothers black pen. Just one I usually lay out for substitutes. So when it came time to fill out The Pony’s paperwork for the first of the school year, I went to my secret hidey hole in another drawer for my favorite.

Then I needed a red pen to sign off on my requisitioned items that had arrived. 

The big-bellied Liquid Paper correction pen came out to cover up a slight mistake on a not-very-important form. 

Next I needed the blue Sharpie highlighter to enhance my name on the duty list that has to be tucked into my sub folder by the end of next week.

And of course when I filled out my pocket calendar, courtesy of MSTA membership enticements from the first day of teacher workshops, I needed green ink for the days off, red ink for duty days, and pencil for personal appointments which will require a substitute. 

Yep. You wouldn’t think a teacher (heh, heh, I just wrote “techer”) would need so many writing implements for one day without even any students present. But we do. Because we are PROFESSIONALS!

Maybe I can find a leather tool belt and fit my pens in slots like bullets on a bandolier. You know that that is, don’t you? That thing a bandit wears across his chest, loaded with spare bullets. I’d like to pretend I knew that. But I had to consult The Pony. He didn’t quite know either. So I said, “You know. I want to call it a gondolier. But I know that’s the guy who pushes a boat through the canal with a stick.” 

“BANDOLIER! It’s a bandolier!”

Uh huh. Two Thevictorian heads are better than one. Just like eight pens are better than one.