Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Not-So-Silent After-Spring, by Not Rachel Carson

Remember when I was fairly sure that Genius was slowly poisoning himself with film developer chemicals his fingers left around the edge of the quart of pink lemonade he commandeered from me?

The saga continues. Genius was only here for the day. He left that half-full jug of pink lemonade on the cutting block. That Monday morning, as I was getting The Pony's lunch ready at 5:00 a.m., I smelled the film developer. At first I though it was just a left-over smell in the kitchen. But every time I moved near the cutting block, it was stronger. I saw that lemonade, and sniffed the white plastic lid. OH YEAH! The poison was strong on that one. I grabbed a paper towel so as not to contaminate The Pony's lunch, and then grabbed that evil lemonade jug and dropped it in the trash, the paper towel following it.

The next morning I noticed the smell again. Huh. Right around the cutting block. Darn that Genius! He must have had his hands all over it, and must have set his jugs of chemicals over there, too. Every morning it was the same thing. I'd get a whiff. Strong. Near the cutting block. Poor Pony. Now I was slowly poisoning him by putting his metal water bottle on the cutting block to add ice, and compounding the crime by setting his sandwich container there just before inserting it into his lunch bag. Not to mention his mini bag of Cheetos that I tossed onto the cutting block from the pantry until time to pack the lunch bag.

Short of sanding that six-inch-thick slab of butcher block until it was a mere sheet of laminate, then sealing it with a clear coat, I don't think there's a way to get film developer chemicals out of a thick wooden cutting block.

Yesterday morning, as I packed The Pony's Cheetos, a wave of guilt washed over me like the very strong whiff of film developer chemicals. Huh. Funny how it was so much stronger now, even after a couple weeks went by. I sniffed that Cheeto bag. WHEW! That was almost overpowering. I got a damp paper towel and wiped it. I really had to get to the bottom of this. I leaned over to where the Cheetos had been laying. Maybe I could cover up that area so food didn't come in contact with it. That's when I saw it.


Somehow, I had received a free sample of Perk in the mail, in a small manilla envelope. I never ordered it. I let that envelope languish on the kitchen counter by my purse for a week or two. I thought Genius had ordered some tiny gadget. Then The Pony said, "Uh. It's addressed to YOU, Mom!" So I let him open it, and it was the car vent air freshener little plastic thingy, in shrink wrap on cardboard, about the size of a quarter. You know. Suitable for hooking onto your car vent.

When Genius was here for the day, I asked him if he wanted the air freshener thingy for his truck. "Oh!" Genius loves free stuff, now that he has to pay. He opened it and sniffed it. "No. You can have it." He laid it back on the cutting block, among the paper towel holder, The Pony's comb, two mini plastic bats full of gum that he didn't want, a bag of tortilla chips, and a college recruiting postcard for The Pony.

Last night, Genius called to ask if I would pay for a new magical graphing calculator that will prevent him from doing calculus or some advanced brainy math stuff by hand. Since he has his tuition and room and board covered with scholarships and his RA deal, and owed $-1,843.00 this semester, I agreed. I told him how I was glad he was still able to function after imbibing all those film developer chemicals.

"WHAT? I didn't drink them!"

"I think you did. You should have smelled the lid on that lemonade."

"You're ridiculous!"

"I even had to pick up the jug with a paper towel and throw it away so I could quit poisoning The Pony every morning when I made his lunch."

"Heh, heh. Now THAT'S funny. Poisoning The Pony."

"Well, he's fine. But you'll never guess what I figured out this morning. It was the air freshener thing you opened and left on the cutting block!"

"Heh, heh! I knew I didn't get chemicals all over the cutting block."

"You must have touched that air freshener when you opened it, and had it on your hands when you drank the lemonade. That smell was strong!"

"Yeah, well. I like how you were poisoning The Pony!"

At least that made him happy. Genius had his nose out of joint because I did not write enough about his visit. It's not like he still lives here and can compete with his dad for my material.

No wonder he didn't want that air freshener!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Somewhere, Between High Rollers and Pot Heads, Lies Val Thevictorian

A frown to the left of me, a toker to the right...here you are stuck in the middle with Val.

Walk with me, won't you, into the Casey's General Store on Sunday afternoon? Yes. Soak in the ambiance of Backroads. A crisp sunny day, blue sky, temps in the low 80s, folks out doing what Backroadsians do on Sunday afternoons. Which means a treat of lottery tickets for Val, after a hard day of grocery shopping.

I walked in with four winning scratcher tickets, totaling $25, to cash in for more tickets. That's the way you win, you know. Amass some winners, then play off your winnings until they're gone, then wait several months before trying again. When you're hot, you're hot, and when you're not, you're not. Somebody oughta write a song about that.

So there's one line with only one register open, because the other clerk is kneeling behind the counter making a money drop. You'd think they'd wait for a lull and not expose the floor safe to every ne'er-do-well in Backroads, but times have changed since I did a stint behind a Casey's counter.

The lady in front of me stepped up and asked for two rolls of quarters. She wasn't buying anything. Just wanted quarters. Let the record show that she was perfectly willing to part with a twenty-dollar bill to get her two rolls of quarters. But, as the clerk explained, the employees are not allowed to give out change like that on Sundays. Neither are they allowed to pay off big lottery tickets, either. Not that I've ever taken one in there, of course. But they usually ask me how much mine are worth before taking them. As long as you're just taking your profit in tickets, it's not a problem. It's those pesky banks that keep banker's hours that make Casey's so stingy with their coins and bills on Sunday.

Now what does a lady need two rolls of quarters for on Sunday? That's 80 quarters. Nobody does that much laundry. And casinos take bills. What was she going to do, stuff them in a sock like Sean Penn did with cans of soda in the original Bad Boys movie, and whack a bully across the face? Or twist them in a towel like a bar of soap like Matthew Modine did in Full Metal Jacket, to whack a clumsy screw-up in his sleep for getting the whole platoon punished? I think not. She got all frowny-faced when she found out no quarter rolls were coming her way.

Then it was my turn. But the other clerk jumped up from behind that counter like a jack-in-the-box, and asked if she could help anybody. So the dude behind me stepped over and said, "I only want to buy some Zig Zag papers if you have them." Well of course they had them. They're a convenience store, aren't they? It would have been mighty inconvenient if Dude couldn't get his rolling papers. To complicate matters, the clerk told Dude that they had both red and white Zig Zags. Not something a toker like Dude wants to hear, because then he has to make a decision. When all he wanted was to step up to the counter and get his rolling papers and get the not-heaven out so he could roll his...ahem...cigarettes...like a cowboy ridin' the range.

Dude didn't know the difference in red and white Zig Zags. He said he'd take the cheapest pack, but alas, they were both $1.68 as discovered by the clerk when she practice-rang them up. Then she told him the red ones were smaller. I never did hear what Dude decided to use for his tobaccy of the wacky type, because I had to pick my tickets. Quite successfully, I might add, because when I got home, I scratched off a $40 winner.

Just a slice of life from Backroads on a Sunday afternoon.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The One Where The Pony Picks Up Two Chicks

Last evening, just before The Pony left with Hick on the way to the auction on the way to his walk-a-thon, I heard the front door open. I briefly toyed with the assumption that a burglar such as the Unmarked Meter-Reading Bandit had breached our airtight security perimeter, also known as The Broken Doorbell Unturned Deadbolt System. I could picture him and his red ponytail wreaking havoc upstairs with that Mayhem Allstate Insurance dude and the Maytag man who sits under the counter licking dishes. Then I heard it:


Footsteps pounded down the basement steps. The Pony rushed into my office, flipping on the light with his elbow. "Look! Look what Dad and I found when we collected eggs! They were just born. One of them was still wet on the head from pecking out of the egg. The mom won't accept them. She tried to peck them. She already had one chick yesterday. I guess she only wanted one kid."

He held a chick in each palm. One yellow, one black. They continued to CHEEP up a storm. Maybe that gets their lungs going. The yellow one pecked at The Pony's thumb.

"How are you going to take care of them? They'll freeze to death tonight. It's going to be in the 40s or 50s. They need to be up under the hen."

"I know. Dad's going to put them in his barbershop. He ran a light bulb in there to keep them warm, and we'll put them in a tub on some hay."

"Do they have food and water?"

"Uh huh. But the food is too big, so tomorrow morning Dad is getting some regular chick feed."

"Some of them drowned in the water dish one time. Will they fall in?"

"No. It's one of those little waterers, with a dish at the bottom that the water comes out in. Shallow."

"I hope it works. They'll die anyway without the hen."

"I know. Aren't they cute?"

The Pony was practically beaming. I'm surprised he didn't hand out cigars. He really enjoys the critters.

This morning, Hick texted The Pony that he checked on the chicks, and "They were pretty rough."

"I don't know what he meant, but he didn't say they were dead."

The Pony and I went off to do the shopping, and Hick's oldest son came out with his kids to ride four-wheelers and see the chicks. According to Hick, the chicks were still and cold. Sonny picked them up and blew on them and held them in his hands, and they opened their eyes and started CHEEPing. So the men did what all men would do, and put those two chicks in a tub in the sun to warm up, and went off riding ATVs. When they came back, the chicks were deceased.

"Well, they probably got overheated in that tub in the sun. It was 84 degrees! They couldn't even get a breeze down in there. They can't regulate their heat. You gave them heat stroke."

"We might of."

"Poor things. They didn't stand a chance. Have you told The Pony yet?"

"No. Hey! Pony! The chicks died."

"Which ones?"

"The newest ones."

"BOTH of them?"

"Yeah. We thawed them out, then we cooked them. We tried."


RIP, little Ivory and Ebony. We didn't even have time to name you. Sorry that the food you had overnight was bigger than your beak, and that hay and a lightbulb don't hold in your body heat like the wings of a hen. We did the best we knew how. Maybe your chicken mom knew something was amiss.

Mother Nature is a harsh taskmistress.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Just Past Summertime, and the Givin' is Easy...

The Pony is off to a fundraiser for NHS tonight. Okay. Technically, he is off to the auction with Hick, his ride to the fundraiser, which starts at 9:00. He's not thrilled about going to the auction, though he has done if voluntarily as many times as he can count on one hoof. However...non-drivers can't be choosers, only beggars of rides.

This particular fundraiser is a walk for Alzheimer's Disease. The Pony had a sign-up sheet for people to pledge per-mile amounts, or donate flat sums. He has had this form since the last club meeting day, which was three weeks ago. The Pony is not exactly a go-donation-getter. He didn't even ask ME or Hick if we would like to donate. In fact, I bought magazines from another kid in his class because The Pony never asked me about that fundraiser, either. I told The Pony that Hick and I would donate $20 for Alzheimer's. He doesn't even have to walk for three hours.

The Pony may not be one to wear out his shoes gathering donations, but he is generous to a fault. I told him that his grandma would probably donate, and his aunt, and his cousin, if he only asked. He said, "I'm going to donate $25 myself. I can afford it." He can. Money doesn't mean much to The Pony. He has a stash of saved allowance and birthday money and science fair winnings and Voice of Democracy Speech Contest first and seconds.

Yesterday we took my mom along for the ride on bill-paying Friday. She looked forward to it all week. She wanted a Rally's combo for supper, which she got for $1.99, making sure I used a coupon. Mom even sprung for The Pony's combo, and handed me $5.00 for frozen custard.

As Mom was trying to force-feed me Rally's fries, even though I declined because I had a frozen custard, and The Pony strapped on the feedbag to devour his cheeseburger...The Pony had a flashback to his upcoming fundraiser responsibility.

"Oh, Grandma? We're having a walk for Alzheimer's tomorrow night if you'd like to donate."

Mom put the fries in T-Hoe's cup holder. She commenced to digging in her purse. "Well, I have a twenty--"

My ears swiveled and my brain let out a noise that only I could hear. That noise a submarine makes just before it dives. My mom was going to donate $20 to The Pony's fundraiser!?!

"--but I'm not giving twenty dollars. Here. I'll donate three dollars."

That's my mom!

I was tempted to ask her why she hated the old and addled, but I think that might have hurt her feelings. Three dollars! This is the woman who even donated $5.00 for the Extraordinary Dance.

Back home, I shook my head. "Pony. I'm kind of shocked that Grandma is donating three dollars to your Alzheimer's walk."

He grinned. "I know. But that's okay. I'm giving twenty-five."

Maybe he should have asked her before the burgers and custard.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Val Sees Things as They Are, and Asks "WTF?"

Last week The Pony and I were a little late coming home from work, due to his Scholar Bowl practice. We stopped for the mail as usual, then turned onto our gravel road. Just a few hundred feet into our wooded enclave, we came upon a red car following a white truck. I know the red car belongs out here, and that our neighbor has a white truck. But it’s not like him to drive so slowly.

We putted along behind the car behind the truck. First turn-off, nobody turned. Second turn-off, ours, everybody turned. Past the barn that’s almost in the road. Past the horse-and-pony field, past our land, past our BARn. “Huh. At least we’re going to be rid of them soon,” I told The Pony. And then it happened. That slow white truck turned down OUR driveway.

“What in the world! That guy is going down OUR driveway!”

The slow white truck pulled into the offshoot of the driveway beside the garage, where The Pony’s little Ford Ranger sits, and where Hick parks the Gator when he’s using it during the day. Then that slow white truck backed up, and sat facing us, half on the concrete slab behind the garage, half on the driveway. Which completely blocked my access to the garage.

The guy saw us coming, and pulled up the driveway a little bit, barely off the concrete, so I still couldn’t make my wide turn to get in. I stopped beside him.

“I’m just here to read your meter.”

Well, I’ll be ding dang donged! That was the guy I saw walking across my front porch when I was home on a weekday. He still had that reddish ponytail, but he looked like he’d lost about 50 pounds. He was has either been eating Atkins, or riding the meth pony.

Ponytail pulled his truck forward, partly on the grass, to let me get by to the garage. I reunited with my sweet, sweet Juno, gave her some cat kibble, and went into the house. I thought nothing more about Ponytail until I saw him go up the driveway in his white truck with the little orange light thing unlit on the top of the cab. I was so lost in my new thought that I forgot to notice which way he went when he left our house.

What kind of company reads meters at 5:15 p.m.? Isn’t the work day over by then? Last time he intruded upon the porch was at 10:30 in the morning. Hick saw him one day, too, in the morning hours. Ponytail did not stop at any other house on the way to ours. Did he continue up the gravel road, or go back the way he had come? I’m really starting to get suspicious of this ponytailed guy who drops in and says he is reading our meter. I looked on Ameren Missouri’s site, and could not find any information on vendors who might read meters for them. What in tarnation is going on here? Seems like a grand conspiracy. What kind of thieves dress up like meter readers and make multiple trips at various times to scope out a future robbery site?

I prefer my meter readers to be more high-profile, in trucks with discernible insignia that match the company I write my check to, and sporting picture ID badges while meeting a strict dress and grooming code.

Some people say I ask for too much. I say I ask for too little.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Why Does Nobody Seem to Listen to Val?

It's that time again! No, not time to set the clocks back, or put out Halloween decorations, or slide my world-famous Chex Mix in and out of the oven (NOW WITH TWO ELEMENTS!). Nope. It's time for the ol' flu shot.

This year I did not take advantage of the school flu shot clinic for faculty. It doesn't cost us anything because of our insurance. CeilingReds sends in a shooter, and we all cry a little bit then live happily ever after. Most of us. A couple hold onto their bitterness for a few days. We are not required to get the shot. We do it for our own good. The flu goes through a school faster than Lou Grant goes through Veal Prince Orloff, and faster than Hick goes through a vat of vegetable beef soup (not counting the liquid).

No, I didn't want my insurance charged the day before I actually got the flu shot, like the procedure was last year. Just in case I decided not to go through with it, then had trouble getting one elsewhere because insurance said I already got one. I'm onto their tricks.

I was not sure if I should get the flu shot like normal, because of this darn Xarelto blood-thinner coursing through my veins. So I made an appointment a few weeks back to see my doctor, and thought I might as well ask him about it, and get the shot there.

That was the plan. In reality, I told the nurse why I was there, and mentioned the flu shot dilemma, and she said, "Oh. I'll go get your shot and be right back."

People never really listen to the nuances when Val speaks. Like the part about NOT WANTING THE SHOT UNTIL I ASKED THE DOCTOR IF IT WAS SAFE.

So in she comes with that syringe, and I put my hand over my arm and said, "Hang on there! I want to know if this is safe for someone on Xarelto." And the needle-wielder said, "Oh, I'm sure it is. I just gave it to someone on Coumadin." Which is a blood-thinner that works in an entirely different way. I really put my foot down and my hand up, so she waylaid the doc in the hall of that inner sanctum, and he brushed by and said, "Oh, sure it's okay." Which made me glad I had secretly stopped taking it two nights before, just in case.

Stabber stuck me, explaining how she gives the shots to tall the staff, because they request it, really, what with her not throwing the needle like a dart, but shoving it in slowly and pushing the vaccine at a leisurely pace. Then she withdrew that needle, fiddled with a purple dinosaur bandaid that didn't want to open, then slapped in on my arm as an afterthought. I had the wherewithal to reach over and apply pressure to the stab wound for a good five minutes while she took my temperature and asked about my meds, continuing the cart-before-the-horse process.

Good thing I did the ol' self-arm-press. My shot was around 11:15, and by 2:00 I had a sore arm with a knot the size of a plum just below the injection site. I kept an eye on it, lest it grow to the size of a Mackinaw peach, a fresh cantaloupe, and a ripe watermelon. It stayed about the same. After I slept on it all night, the knot disappeared, and the soreness went away after a day.

And the moral is: Val is a big hypochondriatic baby when it comes to fluids injected into her muscles where thin blood that can't stop itself courses through veins and arteries.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

If She Keeps This Up, She's Gonna Put My Proposed Handbasket Factory Out of Business Before It Even Opens

When I took my mom back home yesterday, she had three messages from my sister. Long story short (I heard that CLUNK as you all fell over backwards in shock), Mom took a potty break and headed back to town with Sis.

Sis babysits for her daughter's little girl, who is not even a year old yet. She needed to run an errand, and wanted Mom to sit in the car with the baby. Seems like nobody wants to let Mom out of the car lately. The reason for the errand perhaps reveals that people used to raise their kids right. Not many handbasket factories back in my day, not even proposed ones.

Sis drives from her town to Backroads to buy her meat. It's not like she goes to Timbuktu. The distance is around 10 miles one way. Sis does not want to get her meat from Walmart, where they shoot it up with water to charge more. Nor does she like to shop at the only remaining grocery chain, where I have had to return expired merchandise on more than one occasion. Not even my mom would serve up some old cheese and past-date mayonnaise. But mainly that's because she doesn't eat cheese, and uses Miracle Whip.

Anyhoo, Sis comes to Save A Lot for meat. Not the one where Mom gets her slaw. The one in my town. They have a deal where you can get a bargain on selected items in the meat department. They're 5 for $19.99. Now you have to know what you're doing, because if you only buy one or two of those items, you're not saving, because, for example, the family pack of hamburger is cheaper by the pound. But if you actually have five items you want, and can't use the big packs, it's a deal.

Sis got home and looked at her receipt. The clerk had not charged her the $19.99! She felt bad. She didn't want to drag the baby back over there (that's a figure of speech, she didn't drag the baby the first time, either) just to go in and give the clerk the $19.99. So she called Mom, everybody's go-to gal for sitting in the car. Sudoku, baby...Mom can entertain herself.

"They're a small store, you know, and I hate for them to be $20.00 short. I want to take them the money."

I guess Sis doesn't realize that Save A Lot is a national chain. Still, the people are very nice, and they have the best meat department around here. Sis has come a long way from when she sent Mom to buy her list of stuff from the Dollar Store, because she didn't want to be seen going in there. That's back when her husband was still mayor. I guess she had a reputation to protect. People may not have confidence in a mayor who's a pauper, I guess.

Their mission was accomplished, and nobody broke an arm patting herself on the back.

My momma didn't raise no gyppers.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

I Think I Kind of Went Up One Dollar

FYI, people, I was almost the TWELVE-DOLLAR DAUGHTER today. Almost.

I can't really blame Mom for getting my hopes up. I dropped by her house to kill an hour and a half before my doctor's appointment this morning. She made me wait a good long time on the porch after I rang the doorbell. When she came to the door, I said, "Can I share a Watchtower with you?" I think that went right over her head. Let the record show that I did not take my shoes off when I entered, but I did say that I'd like to sit in the living room.

Mom was still in her jammies. She really didn't have much of an excuse for making me stand there resting my hand on the brick, very near a harvestman, I noticed almost too late. "I couldn't see who was out here. I thought, 'Now who could that be this time of morning?'" Like I hadn't just talked to her at 6:00 about going to the doctor. I told her she could ride along, even though we're paying the bills on Friday after school. The only stipulation was that I would not allow her to go inside.

"I don't want you around all those sick people."

"I could wait downstairs, over by radiology. That's an open area. I'll take my Sudoku books you got me for Christmas. I'm almost done with another one."

"That might not be a good idea. What if they notice that you are not signing up for a test. They'll think I dumped you there for elder care. They'll get on the speaker: 'Whose elder is this? Who left this lady in radiology? Please come get her now.' That's not going to go over well."

"I'll just sit in the car. I love to people-watch."

"I'll leave you the keys. I don't want you to get overheated, even though it's only 49 degrees right now. Besides, you might run out of oxygen. If you get light-headed, open your door for some fresh air."

"Oh, I might step out and stretch my legs. I might walk around to sit in The Pony's seat."

"Whatever. I know how much you like my Sirius XM country station. The radio will go off after 10 minutes. Then you have to turn the key forward and back."

"Okay. I'll be fine."

Mom put on her going-to-town-but-not-getting-out clothes. Her ensemble did NOT include the gray sweatpants with the hole in the knee. She dug around in her purse, and showed me two fives and two ones. "I have this much money with me. That will be enough, won't it? I really want to give you some money for that triple antibiotic ointment you gave me for my face. So you can get some more for your house."

"We have another tube of it, Mom. I don't need your money."

Off we went. I left Mom in T-Hoe with her Sudoku. I had to park in the last row. When I came out ninety minutes later, I had gotten past the first two rows when I saw Mom emerge from The Pony's door and start toward me.

"What's wrong? Why are you out?"

"I just came to get your purse and carry it for you."

That's my mom! She sprung for six dollars worth of frozen custard. Funny how she tucked that other five and one back into her purse, after flashing them at me before we left the house.

Maybe I should have let her go in the doctor's office with me. Or maybe she should have brought me that free frozen custard last time she was out with my sister. Not that I hold a grudge or anything.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Hey, Val! What's Your Mom Been Up to Lately?

Funny you should ask, all telepathically like that.

Last week Mom had a visitor. Make that visitorS, lest you jump to the conclusion that it was her neighbor from across the road. The one she would not take food to when a tree fell across his driveway and he couldn't get his car out a while back. Her excuse being, "Val, he HAS a wife!"

Nope. The visitors pulled into her driveway (!!!) with a silver car. Mom only knew because she was sitting at her table downstairs, writing out bills, with the shades open on the front windows. "Oh, dear!" she thought. "Who can this be, coming to my house? I really don't want to talk to anybody." Then she did what any bona fide Thevictorian would have done, and hid. She told me all about it one morning on our 6:00 a.m. phone call.

"I went to the window and looked out. There were two of them in the car. It was the Jehovah's Witness ladies. I crouched down and went over to the downstairs bathroom. I didn't turn the light on. I heard them ringing my doorbell. I thought, 'How many times are they going to ring that bell?' But they only rang it twice."

"Did you close the bathroom door?"

"Yeeessss. Just in case."

"How did you know when they were gone?"

"Well, every now and then I stuck my head out of the bathroom to see if I could see their car driving down the road. But I couldn't."

"What would you have done if they were looking in your windows when you peeped out?"

"Oh, I don't know! That would have been terrible!"

"So when did you come out?"

"I crept along the wall, all bent over, until I got to the window. I raised my head just enough for my eyes to be over the windowsill, and I saw that they were backing out the driveway. I ducked down and went back to the bathroom for a few minutes."

"You used to let them in and talk to them. I remember from when I was in high school. [Where I was valedictorian, everybody remember?] I think they even told you that they really had to get going."

"Well, it's always the same ladies. They're very nice. I used to feel so bad. They would take off their shoes when they came in the door. And there I'd be with my muddy old tennis shoes..."

"I don't really think that's a custom of the Jehovah's Witnesses. The kids in my class at school never did that."

"No. But they were being polite."

"Probably because you sat down with them in the living room, where no people had ever gone before, and they thought it was formal sitting room reserved for dignitaries. What did they tell you, anyway?"

"Oh, they always had their little magazine with a story in it, and they would read the story, and then quote some Bible verses that went along with it. We would talk for a while. Then I would tell them I was sorry, but I wasn't interested just now, and give them a dollar or two. I remember one time, they sent a little girl, well, she must have been about twenty, and she thanked me and thanked me for those two dollars."

"Well, she must have pegged you for somebody who would some day donate five dollars to the Extraordinary Dance."

"I just didn't want to talk to them last week. I think I might start giving them handouts from my church. They say that's how to get rid of them. That if you do that, they won't come back."

"They're not like vampires with garlic. Don't you ever get the Mormon boys on bicycles? We always got them when we lived in town."

"No. What did you tell them?"

"We didn't give them money. We just told them we weren't interested, and that they were good representatives, so polite, and dressed in shirts and ties. But we didn't hide from them. After a while we just said we had things to do."

"They never came out here."

"Maybe they knew it was Jehovah's Witness territory."

"Do you think so?"

"No. But I know what you can do next time. Tell those ladies that you think your neighbor across the street would like to meet them. Since he's new around here."

"Oh! I think they were headed that direction when they backed out of my driveway!"

"There you go! Without even trying, you have hooked up people who need each other."

"I don't know about that. I'm just glad I avoided them this time."

You'd think Mom would welcome somebody to talk to. Maybe she felt obligated to offer them some slaw. She's on her last container, you know. And she won't get gypped again.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Be Careful What You Request From Val

A few of you have seen Hick in the flesh, and can attest that he certainly does exist. And before the rest of you go all shuddery and have that saliva flooding your mouth pre-regurgitation at the thought of Hick exposing his flesh, let the record show that he was fully clothed when he showed himself at The Book House a while back.

For everyone who was not privy (heh, heh, I said PRIVY) to feasting your eyes on prime Hickness, allow me to give you a taste. Sop up that saliva! I don't mean an actual TASTE, taste. Like swirling fine wine around in your mouth before spitting it into a bucket, or walking on Hick like a butterfly would in order to sneak a taste with its feet.

Prepare yourself now...here it comes...

That's Hick in his work clothes, back when he started building his creekside cabin. No. It may come as a surprise to you that Hick is NOT a plumber! He can do plumbing, but there's none of that going on in this cabin. It's rustic. Like the Jed Clampett and Granny's cabin before Milburn Drysdale got ahold of their bubblin' crude money.

Here's a picture of the finished product, though it has been updated with a bedroom since the photo.

Y'all are welcome to sit a spell on the front porch if you're in the neighborhood. Look out, though. There might be some unwanted visitors keeping you company.

Yeah. That's a snake almost as tall as Hick. I'm going out on a limb here, and declaring that snake was BIGGER than Hick. Because, after all, it was too big for that skin. Kind of like Hick, who is too big for his britches, and I'm not talking about the fit of his pants.

Hope you found satisfaction in the Hick exposure. Now you'll recognize the barber if you drop into The Little Barbershop of Horrors for a haircut.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Scapegoat 2268

One of the perks of being Hick's wife is that I am also his social secretary.

Oh, don't go thinking that Hick is in demand for speaking engagements, award ceremonies, or state dinners. Nope. But he HAS been a subject for every medical procedure known to man. I suppose the highlights were that time he had a titanium plate screwed to his cervical vertebrae, just before which the surgeon informed him that he had a really fat neck. And the time he was flipped upside down on a tilt table and vibrated, in an effort to solve a problem with his inner ear. I swear. Those doctors would have had an easier time solving a problem with Maria, the flibbertigibbet, the will-o'-the-wisp, the clown.

Every evening when I get home, I bump down the thermostat, put my feet up in Hick's La-Z-Boy, and listen to the phone messages. I'm not obsessed or anything. But if I don't, there's a light on that phone that, unlike little Cindy Lou Who's Christmas tree light, has no problem lighting on one side. It flashes until the message is listened to. That means the phone beside New Delly in my dark basement lair also flashes. It's enough to give me a seizure to rival that of Kramer every time he heard Mary Hart's voice on Entertainment Tonight.

Thursday there was a call from Hick's regular doctor's office, reminding him of his appointment Friday afternoon. He goes every month for a B12 shot, due to his pernicious anemia. So the girl says the appointment time, and then says, "You have a balance of twenty-two dollars and sixty-eight cents, so be sure you bring money with you." Like a person in this day and age runs around like a celebrity, no cash, no checks, no credit cards.

Ain't THAT a fine how-do-you-do? I found it rather odd. Almost as off-putting as a Casey's clerk running out to accuse a matronly woman waiting for her son to pay for her gas of being a drive-off.

When he got home, I reminded Hick of his appointment. "Oh, and they said you owe twenty-something dollars, so bring money. It seems like I just sent them a check. I don't know how your have a balance due."

"Huh. That's stupid! You can bet I'm going to let them know about it!" Hick was displeased a few years ago when the office staff done him wrong in some facet or another. He complained to the Doc himself, who said that was not going to happen anymore. I suppose Hick is lucky that nobody has shot an air bubble into an artery yet. Snitches get medical glitches is the word on the street.

This morning I asked Hick if he paid his balance at the doctor. "Yes. I told the gal about that message, too. I said, 'And boy was my wife PISSED!'"

"What? You blamed that on ME? I wasn't even mad. I just told you that I thought I'd paid it. It was an odd amount, a few dollars and change for that part of your shot that's not covered, not twenty dollars. I just don't see how you can owe that much when you pay for an office visit every time."

"Last time, I didn't pay the twenty dollar copay because their card scanner didn't work. So it was their fault I had a balance. They couldn't take my payment." Never mind that Hick always has walking-around money that he skims from his weekly gas allowance, and uses for flea markets, Goodwill, and the auction. Guess his health wasn't a good enough reason to cough up a twenty and ask me for it thirty minutes later.

Sooo...Big Bad Hick didn't want to show his butt (so to speak) while he was there getting a shot, so he blamed the outrage on ME. At no time had he mentioned the unscanned debit card over the last 30 days.

I think he was setting me up to look like a crazy woman, lest I decide to call and report him for eating donuts.

Friday, September 19, 2014

They Don't Get No Respect. Juno and Ann Are the Rodney Dangerfields of Dogdom.

Our across-the-road neighbors have some new yard ornaments.

A row of tiny white flags, as far as the eye can see. Or at least to the edge of their property. They go the other direction, too, with a lone flag propped between two large rocks in the middle of their driveway.

Something tells me they are not surrendering.

I doubt this new barrier is designed to dissuade their two horses from wandering. They already have an electric fence, as you can see in the photo. Besides, the horses don't have access to the driveway. Here's what I think happened. I believe their two not-heaven hounds came home with a chicken carcass again.

We had an issue soon after they moved in. Hick caught their mutts red-pawed. They ran over into the BARn field and snatched a chicken right out from under Hick's nose. Of course, even that little baby cartoon chicken hawk could snatch a chicken from under Foghorn Hickhorn's nose. Hick went a knockin' the next day, and the neighbor guy apologized, and politely refused Hick's offer to break his pets' chicken-killing habits by loaning out the shock collar we borrowed to break Ann of her bloodthirst. Soon thereafter, their dogs quit roaming onto our homestead.

Now they have a new dog to go with one of the old dogs. It's a standard poodle with a whippet-like tail, off-white in color, and quite obnoxious. The old dog is a barrel-chested black fellow with tan on his chest and baboon-like black-and-tan butt with a bobbed tail. Every morning since mid-summer, these two dashed into our yard. Our dogs would start yapping at them around 5:00 a.m. from the porch. Then they'd move out to the front yard. Then up to the road. "Bark, bark, bark!" warned our dogs. And, like a first-year dainty schoolmarm trying to tame a 7th hour class of eighth graders...they were completely ignored.


That would explain why the chickens were scarce every morning when I watched out the window for them to peck in the front yard. Once school started, The Pony and I noticed that the neighbor dogs ran back to their own yard when we went up our driveway. They stood on their side of the road until we passed, then charged back into our yard.

So...I think those doggies must have done something heinous and have been put under yard arrest.

Just my theory. For all I know, there could be a natural gas line going in along that property.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Without Benefit of Mane and Tail Shampoo!

If I didn't know better, I would swear that some creepy do-gooder was dognapping my sweet, sweet Juno during the day and BRUSHING her without my permission.

Only two short months ago, Juno was grotesquely unkempt, her formerly-silky flowing black fur all dusty and matted and snarled full of bright green cockleburs. But look at her this afternoon:

She positively glistens! The only remnant that harkens back to her dirty days are the tangled pantaloons on her rear legs. I suppose the dognapper doesn't want to intrude upon Juno's private area. Yes, she's shiny as a new penny, if pennies were covered with black dog hair.

The reason I was able to get this photo is because, you see, Juno was snarfing up her beloved cat kibble on the side porch. Please disregard Hick's hoard. I don't know why Gassy G needs two snack tubs of propane. Nor do I know why there's a saucer that used to sit under a plant pot sitting on the porch like Hick gave the cats a saucer of milk. They should be so lucky. They barely get to eat their own cat kibble. And, to my great surprise, there's ANOTHER black roasting pan suitable for serving up cat kibble right there by the propane tanks. The Igloo cooler contains a bag of dog biscuits from the auction. It will come as no surprise to you that Juno and Ann both turn up their noses at such treats. It's like I feel about Auction Meat, I imagine. And I don't even want to know why a strip of roofing shingles is on the porch.

Here's my sweet, sweet Juno from another angle. Still as shiny.

She might need to take the pumice stone to that elbow. I wonder if I should leave a note on her so the dognapper will trim her tangled haunches. I'm glad Juno loves her cat kibble human mommy so much! I know she will stop at nothing to escape her captor and return home every evening.

Let the record shoe that Val does not normally let her beloved canine run around without a collar, like a common stray. Juno had a flattering bright red nylon collar, but Hick cut it off with his knife. That's because he couldn't figure out how to loosen it.

For someone who works with machines all the livelong day, Hick is sometimes not very mechanically inclined. We won't mention that "pooping out a headlight" debacle again.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

More Proof the Universe Conspires to Keep Val in the Dark

Alas, poor T-Hoe. I knew him when he could see well. Now he’s as mono-ocular as a Cyclops. The left window to his soul has ceased to bring enlightenment to his driver. It has become a useless as antique glass in a second story window lead-painted shut and lined with yellowed newspapers.

It seems like only several months ago that T-Hoe had his cataracts removed. And now he’s half-blind!

Monday morning, my mom met me on the school parking lot so I could give her some chili and leftover fried rice and used tabloids. Because that’s what a good five-dollar daughter does.

“You know you have a headlight out, don’t you?”

Hmpf! What kind of scofflaw does she take me for? Of course I didn’t know that. You’d think I was one of those scofflaws who’d drive around without a passenger-side mirror for three months!

When I got inside the school building, high-stepping across the hall lest any snake/lizard/salamander/newts had set up shop outside my door over the weekend, I sent Hick a text.

“My left headlight is out.”

My Sweet Baboo sent back a message immediately, because he doesn’t work, it seems, but sits around searching for Coca Cola memorabilia on the employer’s internet.

“I’ll pick one up after work if they have it, but I might have to order one.”

You’d think I drove a Delorean, Edsel, Pacer, or Model T, what with there never seeming to be available parts for a 2008 Tahoe. I called Hick after work  to clarify the parts status.

“I ordered a headlight. Well. I’m GOING TO order one tomorrow. I want to make sure of the numbers. They’re in a book over in the BARn.”

“How long will it take to get one? I don’t want to get stopped for having a light out.”

“Well I can’t poop one out of my butt, Val!” That Hick. He sure can turn a phrase.

“I was only asking how long I would have to evade the police. Because those running lights are on in the daytime, and they’ll see me.”

“It might take up to three days. Those are not standard headlights. I put in different ones when the originals fogged up and I couldn’t get them unfogged. I’ll put on of the old foggy ones in until we get the new one.”

My Sweet Baboo. Rockin' the irregular auto parts like a champ!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Return of the Maddening Scientist

Genius popped in Sunday afternoon to ruffle my feathers.

Speaking of feathers, last Monday Hick found Yellow-Leg, our big red rooster, second in command of the hens after our first rooster, Survivor, floating in Poolio. He was not alive. Hick and The Pony had just covered Poolio for the winter. We had a couple of downpours throughout the day and night, and the black pool cover had about a foot of water on top. Let the record show that chickens are not good swimmers.

"Hey, Genius, Dad found Yellow-Leg drowned on top of the pool cover this week." Genius is no fan of the animalia that Hick collects.

"Meh. C'est la vie."

"It's not really polite to talk French about our dead chicken."

"C'est la mort. Do we have anything here for lunch?"

"You can have pizza left from Thursday, or Chinese left from Friday, or chili made yesterday."

"I'm having Chinese. Don't tell me that the chili is in the big pan sitting in the refrigerator."

"No. The big pan is on the stove. The chili is in plastic containers stacked in the refrigerator."

"Good. Because I want to use that big pan to mix up a batch of photo developer."

"You might have to wash it. I just rinsed it last night. It looks clean. But there might be particles of chili on the side. Will that mess up your developer?"

"Of course it will. You can't have chili in developer."

"There's another pan that size under the cabinet. That black one with white speckles. It's a little thinner than the copper-bottom one. I don't use it much. It's clean."

"What kind of pan is this? Is it cast iron?"

"What am I, a metallurgist? I don't know what kind of pan it is. It's NOT cast iron. That's like the skillets Dad has hanging on the end of the garage. The heavy stuff."

"Obviously, you are NOT a metallurgist. Hey! I smell something burning!"

"That could be the pan you just put on the burner and turned up the heat to high."

"Hey! This vent is not hooked up to anything! It just shoots the vapors out into the room!"

"I think you have spent too much time in Academia. This is a kitchen. Not a chem lab."

"Well. MY house will have a fume hood to vent vapors to the outside. And it will be filtered!"

"Good for you. First you have to GET a house."

"I need a funnel. Do we have a funnel?"

"No. You can cut a paper plate and roll it into a cone and pour through that like I do."

"Um. This is going to be boiling hot. I need a funnel. I should have gone to Hogwarts! I have my cauldron and my chemicals...all I need is a funnel."

When I came back from the laundry room, that boy had a funnel! How did he do that?

"Oh, I found this funnel. Now I need The Pony to hold this jug while I pour my developer from this boiling pan. PONY! Come help!"

I couldn't bear to watch.

"I'm rinsing this pan with hot water. Your sink should be all right. I can use this sponge."

"No! I use the sponge on the dishes! We don't need chemicals on the sponge."

"Okaaay! You might want to give this sink a good cleaning before you wash dishes in it, too. And the next time you do dishes, you should probably wash this pan."

I've forgotten what it was like when Genius lived under our roof. I've kind of been on vacation for a year without knowing it.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Master Builder Makes a Supply Run

Hick had no sooner come in the back door this evening than he went out the front door. He could pick up some side work with the circus. He already has a red round nose (probably got it at the auction), and with this entering and exiting skill, he could do the work of six men in the clown car.

"I've got to go back up the road. I saw some windows, and I'm going to try to get them."

"Windows? Where? In the ditch? On the right-of-way? You'd better be careful."

"No. They're in somebody's yard. Sitting by the trash. For people to take."

I think I heard the faint phantom cheer of bald men throughout the county who need haircuts every Saturday morning. A window in a barbershop is a necessity, lest a fistfight between two old geezers over road rage should occur without the proper audience.

Let the record show that Hick drives his Pacifica to work, and had stopped by the pharmacy in town on his way home. He was off to fire up the Ford F250 long bed extended cab, the official vehicle for picking up windows along the road. Not to be confused with my old Toyota Corolla, the official vehicle for picking up J-channel from the middle of the road.

A couple hours later, after Hick returned from his scavenging and barbershop-building and T-Hoe-doctoring (more on that another time) and animal-tending...I told The Pony to holler upstairs and ask about the windows. Because inquiring minds want to know. And I'm already halfway through the story.

"Hey, DAD! Did you get your windows?"

"No. Didn't get them."

"Why not?"

"They were gone. I knew I should have got them this morning."

Therein lies the problem. One man's junk doesn't last long in his front yard. Somebody is always on the lookout for treasure. I know why Hick didn't stop this morning and come back for the truck. He was already late. I saw him hit the brakes halfway up the driveway. Then he went on. But 15 minutes later, he was back home. He forgot all of his medicine vials that he was taking for refills. Not one to use the modern convenience of an automated call-in number is Hick. Since he was already late, he could not run the risk of being double-late and actually getting to work after time to start. Even though he's salaried, and can get away with quite a lot.

I cried because I had no punchline to finish my story. And then I met a man who had no free discarded windows for his Little Barbershop of Horrors.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Mine Is Not to Reason Why. Mine Is But to Freeze and Fry.

I called my mom before church this morning. She's always ready, waiting to talk to me, whether it's 8:00 or 9:30. "Oh, I'm ready. All I have to do is put my shoes on."

Today she was breathless as she answered the phone around 8:30.

"Oh. Weren't you expecting my call?"

"Yes. But I was on the way downstairs, carrying my heater. I'm on the kitchen phone."

"I just have a minute. Why are you carrying your heater? Didn't you turn on your heat? It was 39 or 40 degrees last night!"

"Well...when I was ready to go to bed, my thermostat still said it was 70, so I thought I would wait until morning. You know. I thought it might keep me awake."

That's MomLogic. How a heat pump/forced-air furnace is going to keep her awake at night is beyooooond me. She falls asleep with the television on. It's not like that furnace is going to blow heated air through the vents with the force of sound waves from a Maxell cassette tape through a stereo speaker. I suppose she thinks it's too early to turn on her furnace. Like it does not merely involve pushing a lever on her thermostat, but something much more strenuous and permanent, like sawing down all the trees in a ring around her house (with the help of her unliked neighbor and a two-man saw) and setting them ablaze to keep her house warm for the winter.

As far as carrying the electric heater downstairs...that's folly! I suppose Mom had taken it upstairs to her bathroom to take the chill off during her church bath. I hope her bathtub was not still full of that water she warned me about when I went up to use that bathroom. Maybe she had to chop through ice on the creek to carry buckets of water to the tub, since her faucets might have prevented her from hearing the phone ring on my call. You never know.

One thing I DO know is that an octogenarian has no business lugging an electric tower ceramic heater up and down two carpeted flights of stairs in a split-level brick home, with only a rickety wrought-iron railing as a barrier between her and an unfortunate fall. Get another heater already! They're only about $50 at Walmart. I think you can have one on each floor if you desire.

Of course, there's that other alternative of RUNNING THE FURNACE!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Do You, Val's Mom, Take This Container as Your Slawfully Netted Strife?

My mom has had another adventure. I know you're not going to believe this, but SLAW was involved!

I only found out yesterday morning before school. It was duty day, too, so I had no time to tarry. I had to cut off the conversation while I was only five minutes behind schedule. But here's the gist of it.

"Oh, I went to town for some slaw. I was running out! I just went to the Save A Lot out here. I decided to get TWO containers, because it was on sale, and the date said it was good until October."

"Like expiration dates mean anything to you."

"Well, I'm sure it will be gone by then. So while I was getting the slaw, I saw that their potato salad was also $.99, so I picked up a container of that. I never look at the receipt. But this time, when I got out to the car, I did. The potato salad was $.99, but she had charged me $3.98 for the two slaws! I was not going to let them get away with that. So I took my bag and my receipt and went back inside. I told her, 'I'm usually wrong on things like this, but it seems to me that you did not ring up my slaw for $.99 like your sign says. The potato salad was $.99, but I'm pretty sure your ad said that slaw was also $.99. And this receipt looks like you charged me $3.98 for two slaws.' She said she would check on it, and took my receipt and my bag into the managers office."

"Oh, no! You shouldn't have let her take your bag in there! I hope they didn't pee in you slaw or anything."

"Well, she just took it from me. It has a plastic seal around the lid. So I'll know if it's been opened.

"If it has, you take it right back out there and tell them it might have been tampered with, and get one off the shelf yourself. And watch the price when they ring it up!"

Okay. They were in there quite a while. Then she came out and said she was sorry, but their register was not ringing up the slaw for $.99. So she gave me a refund. I was really proud of myself to get my two dollars back. And I got to thinking, that sale has been going on for two days already...

Now let me interrupt our conversation momentarily to inform you that my mom does not have a prejudiced bone in her body. She believes everyone should be treated equally, and sometimes even bends over backwards to emphasize how a certain person from assorted minority groups behaved in an exemplary fashion, or went out of their way to accommodate her. She is an equal opportunity, sometimes inadvertently patronizing, staunch supporter of all ethnicities and ablednesses, and even found something nice to say about one of the KKK who were handing out fliers on a street corner last year: "I think it's a shame that they're allowed to do that. I thought about going around the block so I didn't have to pass them. But there was one guy who had on the nicest blue robe. He must have been the leader, because his robe was different. It was really pretty." So, with this in mind, I reveal the next thing out of Mom's mouth concerning her slaw:

...I bet they gypped so many people."

"Um. Mom. You can't really say that these days. It's an insult to gypsies. You can't say gypped."

"Oh. I didn't know that. I will try to be more careful. But the slaw is regularly only $1.79, so if the register is charging people $1.99 apiece for them, they are overcharging their customers ABOVE the regular price."

"I know what you mean, Mom. I've gotta go or I'll be late for my parking lot duty. Talk to you later. Enjoy your slaw. And your two dollars!"

"Okay. I'm so proud of myself. Have a good day."

I didn't have the heart to mention that they still ripped her off for the tax on her overcharged slaw.