Sunday, November 30, 2014

To Alleviate All Doubt

I make no secret of the fact that The Pony is a nerd.

Even if I tried, his nerdness could not be hidden. He's quite possibly the second nerdiest nerd who ever nerded. Next to his brother Genius, of course. Let the record show that The Pony does not wear a pocket protector. But he DID on new-induction dress-up day for his middle school Beta Club. The sponsor selected the professions, and she made The Pony a pharmacist. He wore a short white coat, with a pocket protector and several pens. And he loved it. He asked for a little tablet like a prescription pad, though I hope he wasn't forging any prescriptions with his bad handwriting.

The Pony doesn't wear tape on the nosepiece of his glasses. But I DID repair the earpiece where it hooks onto the lenses with masking tape when a screw fell out. Yes. The Pony's nerdness can be seen by cosmonauts from the International Space Station.

The Pony hates jeans. Now that he is kicking up his heels with independence, he refuses to wear them. No longer can I lay them out for his second-grade self to put on because he has nothing else. He will not wear track pants. Not since the two stints with a broken elbow, when he had to be able to remove them one-handed for bathroom purposes. In fact, I succumbed to The Pony's fashion peccadilloes and bought him short-sleeve polo shirts which he buttons to the top, and cargo pants in assorted colors.

With winter coming on, and shorts no longer feasible (according to Val, not The Pony), a new leggings wardrobe was necessary. Can't have the growing Pony exposing his fetlocks to the chill winds of Backroads. So last week, I sent The Pony on a mission to pick out three pairs of pants to augment his current stable of cargo. He returned to my cart on the bread aisle, bearing a stack of slacks. Not jeans. Not cargo pants. Not track pants. Slacks. For everyday wear.

Let the record show that The Pony attends not a private school, but a public school on the very low end of the economic spectrum. Over 75% of our students qualify for free or reduced meals. We are an institution of no-frills dressers. Jeans. Cargo pants. Track pants. Camouflage. Boots. Off-brand footwear. NOBODY WEARS SLACKS!

Except The Pony. I made him try on a pair this morning before our trip to town. They fit. So he took off the tags and suited up. By the time we got home, he was singing slacks praises. "I LOVE these pants! They are so much more comfortable than my other pants. The fabric itself is different."

At least he doesn't ask to wear a dress shirt, tie, and vest like little Genius back in elementary school.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

After the First Three Paragraphs, the Excitement Is Non-Stop!

Alas, there is no 2013 Ford Explorer with 45,000 miles on it in Val Thevictorian's future. That's because Hick woke up craving a pickup truck. C'est la vie. I was not going to be the primary driver of it anyway. Hick had to talk me into it. Once he accomplished that, and I had invested my valuable time in looking up Blue Book values on that object of his desire and his trade-in, Hick dropped it like a hot potato. I refused to spend the day driving around being accosted by car salesmen on the last selling day of the month, so Hick can cool his heels when not-heaven freezes over until I find the time to accompany him.

But that's not the end of our automotive story today, my friends. Not by a long shot. We drove T-Hoe to the city to visit my mom in the hospital this morning. She is looking good, but not ready to come home. Looks like she might have a stint in rehab (not THAT kind) before she's independent again. The doctors think they might kick her out of the hospital on Monday, so we'll have to make sure she's not relegated to doing push-ups in a mud puddle as Louis Gossett Jr. sprays her with a garden hose, or leg lifts on a concrete slab while he listens to her plead, "You can't kick me out. I got nowhere else to go!"

On the way home, Hick stopped by Gus's Pretzels. He parked next to the building. T-Hoe was the only car on that side of the parking lot. There was room for two or three other cars. No sooner had Hick entered the building than a sedan pulled in right next to T-Hoe. Let the record show that there was room to park elsewhere. But no.

A man and a person of indiscriminate sex (by that I mean I didn't notice if it was male or female, not that I'm calling that human a slut) got out of the driver's side. They went in, and an old man opened the front passenger door. Here's where Val goes ballistic.


Not once. Not twice. But THRICE!!!

Geezer flung open his door, which hit T-Hoe and bounced back. So Geezer flung it again. And as he stood up, he rammed that door into T-Hoe AGAIN for good measure. Seriously? The Pony was sitting right there on the passenger side, back seat, of course, in plain view. And Stevie Wonder, Ronnie Milsap, Jose Feliciano, and Ray Charles would all have been hard-pressed to miss the presence of bigger-than-life Val in the front passenger seat. I held out my arms, palms up, like "WTF, YOU CRAZY OLD GEEZER, I'M SITTNG RIGHT HERE!"

I swear Geezer looked through T-Hoe's driver's side window like he was going to yank open the door and neutralize me. He must have been a mobster in his younger days. Then he turned and went around the corner and into Gus's. There was a female geezer in the back passenger seat. I did not lean over to see her face. What kind of gal lets an ignoramus slam the door into another car like he's Jerry Seinfeld in a too-small rental car he did not reserve, who paid for the insurance and is bent on beating the not-heaven out of that auto? I will say that even though I'm not a religiousy kind of person, I did recognize rosary beads in Geezette's hands. Or else she was quite a hit at Mardi Gras and was reliving the memories of the loot her mammaries got her back in February.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE? And I don't mean myself concerning that last reference.

When Hick came out with our bag of pretzels, he carefully balanced T-Hoe's door, with its only opening-stops of Not Far Enough and Too Far, so as not to bump the sedan.

"I wouldn't worry about that if I was you. The old guy that got out SLAMMED HIS DOOR INTO US THREE TIMES!" I particularly wanted Geezette to hear me.

Hick just grunted and climbed into T-Hoe without avenging me. If Val was a spryer woman, she would have jumped out and run around and whammed T-Hoe's driver's door into that blue sedan. Turn about is fair play. The goose giving the gander his due. What went around returning.

This is why we can't have nice 2008 Tahoes with 69,000 miles on them.

I am redoubling my efforts to get my proposed handbasket factory up and running.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Friday Afternoons In the Basement With Genius

Genius called this afternoon as I was looking up used car prices and the phone number for my bank to retrieve my lost debit card. It's like he is a master at astral projection. The most busy time for me is when he calls. Well. Except for 12:05 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day, when I was asleep in the basement recliner.

"Hey. I am ordering The Pony's Christmas present for you. I got a deal on it for only $900. It's beautiful. It looks like brushed aluminum." (Let the record show that Genius LOVES shopping for and opening up the box of any new electronic gewgaw. Doesn't matter if it's his, or if he's setting it up for us dimbulbs. I can imagine him curling up around a new laptop to sleep, or putting it on the pillow beside him with his hand stroking the brushed aluminum.)

"He's not going to care what the outside looks like."

"I know. And I need to look over those games he told me he wants. I might have to do an upgrade to make sure it works best for them. That might be another $100."

"Whatever it takes. He needs it for game-playing and writing. I don't know what a laptop needs. We've already replaced the power cord charger thing on this one twice. The first time because it burned up. Literally."

"Okay. Just checking. I haven't left the room all day. I feel like I'm really at the Overlook Hotel. I haven't shaved for three days, and I'm wearing an old pair of sweatpants and a shirt that doesn't match."

"Have you been typing 'All work and no play makes Genius a dull boy' over and over?"

"No. I scrawled it up and down the hall on the walls."

"Did you have a good Thanksgiving dinner yesterday? Your omelet?"

"I had a Totino's pizza. It was crappy. And it was 88 cents."

"Was it at least pepperoni?"

"It was Three-Meat."

"Oooo! Only the best for Thanksgiving. Are you having leftovers today?"

"No. I still have two more pizzas left."

"I hate to rush you, but I was getting ready to call the bank because they wouldn't give me my debit card this morning. I left it in the ATM Wednesday afternoon. Then your dad and I are going to look at used cars."

"WHAT? You don't need a car! What's going on?"

"Well. Mine is a 2008. And if you remember correctly, Dad just took it to get fixed, and it didn't. Anyway, the car is for him. Oh. Here's one now. A Chevy Blazer. Five thousand dollars, and 239,000 miles on it."

"That's better than my truck! What are you getting rid of?"

"Not the van. I could drive that, except it doesn't run."

"You can't drive that! It has studded snow tires on it. I wanted to use it to haul a bunch of people around, and Dad told me I couldn't, because of the tires."

"That doesn't stop him. But we're not getting rid of that. You're the primary driver of it, you know!"

"I know. Please tell me it's the Pacifica!"

"It IS!"

"Good. I'm on board. Because that thing has a gas pedal that sticks. When you stop at a stop sign, you have to keep pushing on it, and then it goes ROAR and you take off."

"I hope it doesn't do that when they test drive it. Anyway, we're looking at a 2013 Ford Explorer with 45,000 miles on it. There goes five years of your tuition."


"At least your dad and I will be stylin' while we're rollin'. You will be sitting on the front porch whittlin' your future away."

"When I get out of school, that's going to be my first big-boy purchase."

I don't think he meant a 2013 Ford Explorer with 45,000 miles on it. And I'm positive he didn't mean a 2006 Chrysler Pacifica with 129,000 miles on it.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Still Thankful

We are having an unconventional Thanksgiving this year. Not by conscious design.

My mom is in the hospital until Monday, after an event that took us by surprise on Wednesday. She seems to be improving. The doctors asked her to repeat "tree, apple, dog" and she could not. But don't you worry about Val's mom, because neither could my sister's husband the ex-mayor, or their adult son. We're hoping that her progress continues. All the doctors have ruled out for sure are heart attack and stroke.

With Mom laid up against her will, after already cooking a ham for naught, the Thevictorian family was left to their own devices for sustenance today. The Pony and I headed for town with a wad of money from the Christmas stash, since I left my debit card in the ATM Wednesday in the confusion. We wended our way through Walmart's maze of Pallets O' Bargains for evening sale kick-offs, and gathered provisions for our feast. Around 1:15 I started preparing the meal. Here's the menu:

Roast Chicken
Green Beans With Bacon, Ham, and Onions
Roasted Carrots and Onions
Stuffing (Courtesy of Stove-Top)
Hash Brown Potato Casserole
Hot Rolls
Green Bean Bundles (because the Thevictorian family can't get enough green beans)
Oreo Cake
Sugar-Free Chocolate Pudding Pie

Not too shabby for a gal who only warms things in the oven or heats them in the microwave. I carefully planned my menu to revolve around food that would cook at 350 degrees. We were chowing down by 4:30. Even The Pony ventured away from his comfort zone and ate some potatoes and a green bean bundle. And he LIKED them! He has not yet cut into his Oreo cake. He took it out to T-Hoe's hatch to cool off. That boy loves his Oreo cake chilled.

Poor Genius. He's isolated at his own private Overlook Hotel. The two students on his hall left on Wednesday, leaving only Genius and his kind-of boss, another RA, who was planning to pick up his girlfriend today. He had stayed longer than expected, because he was sick. I told Genius that I was sure they would not mind if he invited himself to their Thanksgiving celebration. He didn't seem to share my opinion.

Genius cannot leave town because he is on call. He said he would venture out to see if any stores were open so he could buy some food. All he had was a bit of eggs and bacon. He must have been shaking down his dorm-dwellers to afford the bacon. I can imagine they might be willing to part with some cash in order to regain entrance into their abode away from home. Genius said he gets at least two calls a day to go let locked-out people into their room. So...he was planning to have the traditional Thanksgiving omelet for his feast.

All in all, not a bad Thanksgiving. Mom is in good spirits and says her staff are taking good care of her. Genius is going to survive his caretaking adventure. The bank should have my debit card somewhere in its bowels. And Hick helped me prepare today's feast with minor carnage.

I sure will miss my buddy on Bill-Paying Friday tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

I Repeat: What Are We Going to Do About T-Hoe?

Hick's air of superiority stinks like a three-days-dead catfish stuffed with the run-off from a pig farm manure pile and rolled up in a tire-flattened road-kill skunk tortilla.

Remember how I asked to have my leaking tire repaired, and my 16% oil life rejuvenated, and Hick declared that he would go me one better and fix that wheel bearing that roared at him like a mighty king of beasts?

Hick got T-Hoe back around noon. Something suddenly came up, and I did not drive T-Hoe until nigh on four o'clock. At which point I discovered:

The bad tire still had 29 pounds of air, when it needs 35.
The good front tire now had 40 pounds of air, when only yesterday it had 30.
The oil life stood at 14%.
I could not hear a roaring wheel bearing, which I also could not hear before repairs.
The SERVICE PARK ASSIST message now shows up along with my SERVICE SUSPENSION SYSTEM message.

Yep. Hick had the wrong tire fixed. The repairmen told him it had a bad bead.
He SAYS that the guys simply forgot to reset the oil life sensor.
He SAYS they didn't charge him labor again for putting in the pinion bearing instead of the wheel bearing.
He says they told him there's a short in the electrical system and it needs a part to control those sensor messages, but he wasn't paying that kind of money for it.

AND...the night in the shop only cost us $565. I swear. A human hospital would have been cheaper.

Seriously. I could have gone in there like a befuddled old lady and gotten more bang for my buck.

Now all I have to do is take my T-Hoe and get his leaky tire fixed.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What Are We Going To Do About T-Hoe?

Hick took T-Hoe to the shop today. Because of course he couldn’t wait until Friday when I won’t need him. Nope. Gotta take T-Hoe in this morning, so I’m at work with no car all day. I told Hick to make sure I had T-Hoe back tonight.

“Whatever they have to do, if it takes more than today, don’t do it. He runs right now, and that’s good enough for me. I’ve been putting air in that tire since July. First every two weeks, then once a week, then twice, and now three times. But he runs. I have a car to drive. And the oil? I’ve been telling you it drops a percent a day. I have 16% oil life remaining. So it doesn’t have to be done today, or you would have done it yourself over the weekend.”

“I’ll get your car fixed.” Said Hick, with an air of superiority.

Because I knew I would be getting my car back tonight, I only took out my purse. After all, I was getting dropped off at the school door, and picked up there as well. So I left both of my coats in T-Hoe. No reason to haul a coat around when you’re only walking ten feet into the building, right?

So we followed Hick to the auto shop, right next to Save A Lot, and picked him up so he would have a car in town. We took T-Hoe to work, and Hick took him back to leave at the shop, at 7:30 a.m. Hick was supposed to pick us up at 3:45. At 3:15, he called and said he didn’t know if T-Hoe was ready yet. I’m sure he did. At 3:40, he called and said he was waiting because T-Hoe was on the rack. Uh huh. But then he called back at 3:50, and said when he got there, the mechanic was driving T-Hoe down the road. Huh. It wasn’t the wheel bearing Hick thought it was, but another bearing, perhaps a pinion bearing (like the cinnamon babka, the lesser babka, I suppose) that Hick said he was sure it was then he dropped it off. Yeah. That story kind of stinks, even for Hick.

I don’t want to ride in Hick’s Pacifica, because it is too low to the ground. I got in it the other night, and hurt my knee getting out. I don’t want to ride in Hick’s Ford F250 4WD Long Bed Club Cab pickup truck because it is too high. I’m a regular Goldilocks, I am.

Because he had let the $1000 Caravan loll in the BARn field all summer, it will not start and the battery will not hold a charge, because it is from 2009. A fact which he neglected to mention all weekend when he proposed this plan, and I told him I could drive the Caravan. Nope. He waited until 3:10 to even try getting it started today.

So now at this writing it is 4:15, The Pony and I are still at school, and our chariot has not arrived, because Hick drove his truck to my mom’s house to get her Blazer, which is just right.

Oh. And I don’t have a coat, because both of them are still in T-Hoe fifteen miles away, and it’s supposed to snow in the morning.

Pardon me while I do my best Nancy Kerrigan impersonation: “WHYYYYYYY?”

Monday, November 24, 2014


Genius is not with us this Thanksgiving holiday. He is currently Jack-Torrancing his way through the week, having been selected as caretaker of 1400 beds at College as one of the two RAs on duty during the break. I’m not good with details. I believe Genius has to mind four buildings. My knowledge of the specifics makes me look like an expert in irony.

I asked Genius if he had enough food to last the week. It’s not like he has the larder of The Overlook Hotel to feed on. He survives on the meal ticket that comes with his RAship. He said that College was giving him $130 for the week. According to Genius, the math wizard, that’s five dollars per meal, three meals per day, except the last day, when he only gets to eat twice. However…being quite the entrepreneur, taking after Val and her proposed handbasket factory pipe dream, Genius declared that he only needs to eat one meal per day, and is planning on scamming the extra cash for his electronic ventures.

“Make sure you go to a buffet! Then you can eat your fill.”

“Oh, I’m not wasting my money by eating out. There is one other guy on the hall, and we have decided to go halves on groceries, and cook every night. I’m going shopping later. I have my Schnuck’s card!”

Genius also said his old roommate, who transferred to a different college this fall, was coming to visit. “Well, let’s hope he didn’t regenerate an appendix.” Yeah. Genius spent the week before break that year taking his roomie to the hospital with appendicitis.

I’m hoping his caretaking duty is less than eventful.

“Mom. All I have to do is make sure nobody burns the place down.”

I guess he's qualified. I hope he doesn't have any residents like a certain blogmaster. You know. The kind who might use pencils for kindling to start a roaring fire in the microwave.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Neither Snow, Nor Rain, Nor Heat, Nor Gloom of Night Stays These Couriers From Beating Your Package

Funny how the Post Office works, don't you think? Not funny ha-ha. Funny peculiar. Take my Post Office. Please!

Okay. That wasn't fair. I have TWO Post Offices. There's the Dead-Mouse-Smelling Post Office, where the workers are fairly competent, except when they want to bust my hump by asking for ID when I bring in the orange card left in my box to pick up my package, which is clearly addressed to me. Never mind that they will hand out my packages all willy-nilly to various and sundry persons who walk in and say, "I think we have a package, but I don't have the card." Uh huh. It's true.

Sixteen-year-old Pony, with his scraggly almost-Amish beard (not that there's anything wrong with that) can commandeer my package forthwith, no ID necessary. Same for my mom. "Um. I think my daughter has a package here. She got a card, but I don't have it. She forgot it at home, and didn't have time to go back. She doesn't like me to drive all the way out there. They live way past the prison, and the roads are not very good. She said I might have to sign something. I'm her mother, and I'm retired. My daughter works, so she has trouble getting here before you close. She's a teacher, and she has to stay after school for a faculty meeting, and so her son can practice for his Scholar Bowl team. Oh! You have it already! Thank you. I will tell my daughter how nice you were."

Yeah. The DMSPO is fairly efficient, if you don't mind the line of people which usually includes a grabby old man who sticks his hand in your buttcrack and acts like it was an accident.

Last week I had to go to the Main Post Office. It's a hub. Everything goes through there for shipping out and shipping in. This is where I had trouble with my box of just-published books that disappeared into thin air between the publisher and my mailbox. And where the counter guy overcharged me for a flat rate box that was supposed to cost $5.95, but loosened my purse strings to the tune of $8.40. And like Baby and her name in the opening scenes of Dirty Dancing, it didn't occur to me to mind. It's also where I went looking for Genius's package (heh, heh, Genius's package) and the counter guy gave me the run-around and then went in the back and dashed across the doorway like a duck in a Nintendo Duck Hunt game. So instead of the Main Post Office, I think of this one as the We're Dumb And We Don't Care Post Office.

So...I took a box in there around 4:15 p.m. to mail to Genius. No more of that flat rate crap. Hick found me a DISH box from when we got our internet gewgaws, and I stuffed the stuff inside, which was mainly a bunch of wires with odd connectors, a video light, and a microphone, and taped up that carton ten ways to Sunday. I hate when people lift flaps and peer into my package. As with my last mailing experience at the DMSPO, I had the address written in my block printing with black ink on a white note card. Here's where the two Post Offices diverge.

The counter lady at the DMSPO looked at my note card address like I had picked it up off the men's room floor, stuffed it in my butt for transport, sneezed onto my palms, withdrew it, and waved it under her nose. Her nose, which curled up in disgust. "Just lay it on the counter." She typed up an address sticker and slapped it on that package.

The dumbledorf at the WDAWDCPO was the same guy who overcharged me on the flat rate, and questioned the address on my card, because he didn't know that the Post Office people read from the bottom up: City, Street, Box or Suite, Name. Dumbledorf took my note card. I was expecting to get it back. It's the one I keep in my desk at school with Genius's current dorm address. But no. Dumbledorf grabbed that note card and secured it to the top of my package with several lines of 4-inch-wide clear tape.

It's like those two Post Offices have no common regulations. Like they are the left Twix factory that cascades chocolate onto the cookie bar, and the right Twix factory that flows chocolate onto the cookie bar. If these two Post Offices were walking down the street, snacking, paying no attention to their surroundings, they would be sure to collide, with one screaming, "You got peanut butter on my chocolate!" and the other bellowing, "You got chocolate in my peanut butter!"

Forget everything above. What I originally set out to tell you was that while Dumbledorf was fumbling around with my package, his co-worker, Lackadaisical, was trying to help an irate customer whose wedding gifts had been lost in the mail.

"No. You don't understand. My mail is being delivered to the wrong place."

"Yes. Our carrier has been putting mail for Apt. 11 in the box for Apt. 1. He just doesn't look far enough at the address."

"Well, I want my packages."

"We don't have your packages."

"Where are they then?"

"I suppose your neighbor had them."

"I want you to get them back. You gave them to the wrong person."

"We can't get them back."

A dude walked out of the back room. "A guy just called here complaining that he got the wrong mail."

"That must be mine. I want my packages."

"He didn't bring them in. We can't do anything about that."

"But YOU lost it!"

"We'll talk to the carrier about making sure to deliver the mail to the right address."

"Sir, you would not be so uncaring if these were YOUR wedding gifts."

"All you can do is ask your neighbor."

"That shouldn't be MY problem."

"We can't do anything about it."

Then my Dumbledorf lost interest in their conversation, and almost asked me if I wanted fries with my package, but instead offered me stamps. Which I DID need, and had planned on buying anyway, but then he tried to switch me from the flags to Christmas stamps, so I gave in.

I'm sure the county collector will enjoy my season's greetings conveyed by Rudolph and the Abominable Snowman.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Vignette Starring the Future Victorian

I'm feeling a bit nostalgic tonight, my friends. Won't you come along for the ride on Val's trip to yesteryear?

C'mon! It'll be fun. We might stop for ice cream. Those of you who don't call "SHOTGUN!" soon enough can take turns picking the radio station. If anybody gets too tired from standing on the hump in the back-seat floor, he can stretch out up there on that flat area under the back windshield. No bobbing dog-heads in Val's car. The front-seat passengers will be protected by Val flinging out her arm upon sudden stops. But you back-seaters are on your own. And no touching each other or staring or sticking out tongues or clicking the little silver ashtray lids on the armrests.

Whew! Here we go. Tonight we're dropping in on third-grade Val, an earnest little gal, a teacher-pleaser. Val is sitting in the back desk of the row by the windows. Her desk it the one-piece metal flip-top kind, with a wooden lid, and the wooden chair attached that swivels wonderfully when one is bored. It has a built-in metal pencil tray if you lift the lid just slightly. That pencil tray will come in handy when the class moves to the new building mid-year. The new building Val can see out the window, where she doesn't know there will be a fantastic big communal sink like a half-circle shower, activated by tiny feet on a circle of hose-looking stuff, with soap dispensers that put out powdery pink soap, which can be held under the sprinkling water and packed into soap balls that will rest just right on that in-desk metal pencil tray, laying in wait for somebody, perhaps a teacher, to inspect the desk, think, "Oh! Candy!" and pop one into her mouth. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. This scenario is not yet even a blip on Val's radar.

There sits our Val. At the back of the row because she can be trusted. Not a rabble-rouser. She can be used as a divider in the great separation effort against talkers and ne'er-do-wells. She pays attention. She's always prepared. Even today. Even though she has just returned to school after an unfortunate event. Her left arm bears the knuckle-to-armpit cast of a victim of a greenstick fracture of the ulna, suffered in a roller-skating accident on her next-door grandpa's sidewalk. Val has her cast plopped on the desk. No pretty pink cast like modern kids. No envelope-shaped canvas sling with adjustable straps. Val has what might be compared to a white tea towel, folded each morning by her mom, into a big triangle with the pointy ends tied behind her neck, as her sling. Yet she is not concerned with her arm. The social studies lesson is in session!

Social studies is not Val's favorite subject. But she is, after all, a teacher-pleaser. So she's ready to jump in with an answer. Her right arm can still raise, by cracky! But this is a question Val does not know. "Who was the 13th President of the United States?" A crease forms between Val's eyebrows, causing her silvery-pink-framed cat's eye glasses to slip a tiny bit down her nose. The teacher looks sadly around the room. No hands are waving. She tries another tactic. "I'll give you his first name: Millard."

Val wracks her brain. Digs deep. She knows she knows this. She knows she's heard that name. At home. At her grandpa's house, or at his cabin on the St. Francis River. What was it? Millard...Millard...Val's good right arm shoots into the air. She wiggles her hand, just in case the teacher hasn't noticed.

"Yes, Val? Do you know? Our thirteenth President was Millard...Millard..."

Val tucks her foot up under her butt to sit a bit higher in her chair, and announces proudly,


I see that many of you have fallen asleep on the ride home. My daddy will carry you from the car to your bed. Nighty night. Sleep tight. Don't let the bedbugs bite.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Another Emily Litella Moment For Val Thevictorian

Oh, dear. Val had another one of those moments yesterday.

I was perusing the headlines, trying to keep my head afloat in the world of current events. Perhaps find something to bring up in my classes, share with my teenage masses, topics that go along with our subject matter. Like the Philae probe landing on comet 67P, or the Mt. Kilauea eruption that recently ignited homes, or those fifty Nicaraguans trying to push a beached whale back into the ocean. Maybe I could even find a wacky headline for Joe H.'s weekly contest.

There it was! Something for my pupils AND for Joe H.

"Dunking Your Head in Olive Oil Could Cut Heart Attack Risk in Six Weeks"

Well! You can't beat that with a stick! Two uses for one news story. So I meant to click on it and read it, but my eyes were torn away by some intriguing tale on down the page. But it was in the back of my mind. Dunking your head in olive oil, you say! I imagined a bald man dipping his head in oil, like when George Costanza was up to some hanky-panky with The Old Man's Jamaican housekeeper. What about the hair? How was that supposed to work if you weren't bald? Did you massage the oil into your scalp? Wouldn't shampoo negate the positive benefits? Because I would never go to bed with my hair slathered in olive oil. And I surely wouldn't go off to work with oily hair, in case I did the dipping in the morning. This was becoming a problem. I want to lower my heart attack risk in six weeks just as much as a bald man! I couldn't really concentrate on my other stories, so I scrolled back up the page to my provocative headline.

Oops! My headline wasn't quite the same as I remembered it. Never mind.

"Dunking Your Bread in Olive Oil Could Cut Heart Attack Risk in Six Weeks."

These glasses are really much worse than I thought.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Post From Val That You Can Read In 8 Seconds if You Don't Count the Title

The Pony is kicking up his heels with joy.

Last night, he learned that his story, Areo-Atlantis, was accepted for inclusion in the upcoming anthology Building Red: The Colonization of Mars. The expected publication date is Spring 2015.

The Pony would like to thank Val's blog buddy Donna for listing the opportunity, and also blog buddy Sioux for reminding Val of this prospect tailor-made for his writing style.

It takes a blogosphere to nourish a budding 16-year-old writer.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Whosiwhatsits on First

Some work days run smoothly. I barely arrive and log on to the fifty-eleven sites I need to use for filling the thirsty vessels entrusted to me with knowledge, and the day is done. Fini. Time flies when you're busy with your filling station.

Occasionally, it's a matter of one step forward and five steps back. Nothing goes according to plan.

Textbooks are abandoned and must be reunited with the abandoner
Students forget they were potty-trained thirteen years ago, and must go RIGHT NOW
One needs the nurse
Two need in-school suspension work for tomorrow
Three forgot their make-up work
Four remembered to bring it
Five need a pencil
Six announcements blare over the intercom
Seven calls (heh, heh, who am I kidding, only seven, that'll be the day) come in from the office
A stack of homebound work from September arrives via an office worker
A new kid shows up and sits down without so much as flashing a copy of her schedule
An old kid moves away, and the office needs the grade on the checkout sheet
A tech school kid insists on wearing half a pair of safety glasses until I insist he doesn't
A hoodie is put on the floor, and the kid in front of it scoots his chair and rips off the cuff
A fart rings out like the shot heard round the world
And, well, some days, you really earn your salary, as our superintendent once told me, kind of like my principal at a different school told me not to stress, because you just can't make chicken salad out just can't make chicken salad without the main ingredient.

So it should come as no surprise that on a day such as this, TODAY, Mrs. Thevictorian had a bit of an Abbott and Costello moment with a fellow faculty member.




Hi. Did Miss Whosiwhatsits get her IBM t-shirt? would I know?

Can you ask her?

That's going to be kind of difficult. She's on the other side of this concrete-block wall.

Nuh uh.

Yuh huh.

Isn't she in your room?

Why would she be in MY room? She had her OWN room. On the other side of that concrete-block wall.

But...Miss Sec told me she was in your room this hour.

Nope. I'm looking. But she definitely is not in HERE. Do you need the number for her room?

Oh! I don't mean the TEACHER Miss Whosiwhatsits. I mean the STUDENT Miss Whosiwhatsits.

OHHHHH. She's right here. Hey! Firstname Whosiwhatsits! Did you get your IBC t-shirt?

Um. Yeahhh. I got it.


Well, whatever that t-shirt was, she says she got it.

Okay. That's all I needed.

I guess we're even. You mixed me up with her name, and I mixed up your club.

Yep. We're even. Bye now.

Hey! Firstname Whosiwhatsits! Does Mrs. Phone-y call you MISS in her class?

I don't even have her class.

Oh. Because I was confusing Miss Whosiwhatsits, the before-marriage name of Mrs. Whatchamacallit, with you. And I wondered if she calls you MISS WHOSIWHATSITS in class.

Yeah. I don't even have Mrs. Phone-y's class. I'm just in her club.

Duly noted.

Some days, I really earn my chicken not-salad.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Imitation Is the Sincerest Form of Pacifying Val Thevictorian

Saturday morning, before the incoming snow, as I wasted time before making my grocery shopping list to get out early and avoid the crowd...I sat down at my laptop, Shiba, overlooking the front yard by way of the living room picture window. I was leisurely browsing the internet like I didn't have a care in the world, instead of preparing to do battle with hard-core storm-shoppers over bread and milk

When out on the porch
There arose such a clamor
I peeped through the mini-blinds
To see who dared to yammer.

It was Ann, our not-terribly-bright black german shepherd. She stormed down off that porch like a regular guard dog, and tore across the front acreage like she meant business. I was a bit discombobulated. She never gets all aggressive like that. Usually just stands right under the window and barks her fool head off. But this time, she was a bitch on a mission.

I didn't see anything that might trigger her usual hair-trigger all-for-naught woofing. No marauding dogs, coyotes, foxes, rabbits, escaped horses, alleged meter-readers, or shadows. I kept my eyes on Ann. She barreled across the driveway to that section of yard that runs along the gravel road.


Ann charged right up to them, never breaking stride, and they flagged their cottony tails at her and bounded up the gravel road. Darn that dog. What a pretty picture those deer would have made. They were big by Val standards. Their flipped-up tails were about ten inches tall. Not that women are good judges of that sort of thing, of course. Not an antler in the bunch, all were does. I suppose they were having their morning coffee klatch in our yard, since the hunters were thirsting for blood in the woods.

That's just like Ann, to defend our homestead against the quartet of deer, who of course are much more dangerous than chicken-eating neighbor-dogs or strangers who make themselves at home on our range while we're away at work. She's also an ace at defending us from imaginary intruders between 2:00 and 6:00 a.m., from her loyal post just under our bedroom window.

I don't know why Ann can't be more like my sweet, sweet Juno. Who would have herded those whitetails into a pretty parade formation for my viewing pleasure, having fortified herself with free-range chicken eggs and a heaping handful of cat kibble the previous evening.

Monday, November 17, 2014

I Guess You Could Say, "Now She Has a Leg To Kiss On."

Mom is doing well after her surgery. Hick reported that she was a bit nervous before the big event, but had calmed down by the time they wheeled her into the operating room at 7:32. After three-and-a-half hours, she was being stitched up. Hick and my sister the ex-mayor's wife got to go see her for five minutes in the recovery room. Five minutes every hour. Mom finally got a room of her own around 3:00.

MSTEMW sent me two pictures of Mom to show that she was okay. Mom was smiling, but I think that was the anesthesia talking. She had a little bit of a black eye on her surgery cheek, and a patch. The surgeon took some skin from her leg to close up the incision where he took out a hunk from her face. Hope Mom doesn't get the jimmy-leg while she's sleeping, like a dog when you scratch its belly. That could lead to some interesting YouTube videos. Not that I would do anything like that, of course.

I sent MSTEMW a text about the picture. "Is that a patch?" Because it was an oval, like an Anjou pear, only the orange color of a new pebbly basketball. And it looked like the edges were stitched into Mom's skin.

"Yes. What did you THINK it was, another ear? Did you think the doctor gave her an extra ear?" I really don't know where MSTEMW gets her sense of humor.

"No. I thought it might have been leg skin."

"Oh, the leg skin is there, but we didn't get to see it. It's under the patch."

So...Mom called me this evening to report that's she's doing fine. Her throat is a little sore from the anesthesia tube. She has a roommate. "But I can' might be a story there when I get out." Heh, heh. I've even got my post-surgery mom gathering material for me!

Mom also reported that she got the surgery prep team tickled. "I told them, 'This is my daughter, and this is my son-in-law.' And they got funny looks on their faces. Then your sister started in. 'I'M her daughter. But we're not together.' She pointed at Hick. Then she said, 'I don't want you to think we're divorced. Because we're not. We're not even together.' That went on for a while, until I said, 'Oh, that's my OTHER daughter's husband.' But that might have made it worse, because then they really looked confused."

Mom said she's not in any pain right now. And that while she was out of it, that surgeon even took off an EXTRA skin lesion from her neck. She had told him before surgery that her doctor said it was nothing to worry about, and the surgeon agreed, but said he might as well take it off as long as he was cutting anyway, then she'd never have to worry about it. So Mom agreed. That surgeon! I guess he's a taker, not a giver.

Mom should get to come home tomorrow if nothing goes wrong overnight. She said the staff was surprised she was eighty. They talked about her, apparently, like she was a precocious toddler. "And she lives by herself, and cleans her own house!

They're probably just glad she didn't ask for wine with her meal, or some heroin. Can't wait to hear Mom's roommate story.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Please Send Some Positive Thoughts For the Slaw Lady

I have a request today.

You know Val doesn't ask for much. A little song, a little dance...a little seltzer down her pants. WAIT! That was Chuckles the Clown from WJM. No, Val doesn't ask for much. An occasional comment about her Pulitzer-Prize-worthy journalism, educating the masses on new developments in the field of feces transplant research. An Emmy for her reports during sweeps month concerning the #1 Backroads crime of road-walking. A humanitarian award for her selfless devotion to the cast-offs of society, specifically three mailbox road cats and one tiny scrap of a canine that was being starved by Val's mom.

Which brings us to the issue: Val's mom.

Mom is having surgery at 7:30 a.m. Monday. If you could take a moment to send some positive thoughts her way, it would be greatly appreciated. She's a tough ol' gal, but the thought of facing a ride to the hospital at 4:00 a.m., and a five-hour surgery, and a night in the hospital are causing her to have a case of the nerves.

Mom will be spending the night with us so she can get an early start. Genius's bed is available, but Mom is a chair sleeper. So she gets the La-Z-Boy. It won't bother Hick. He goes to bed at 9:00. He will be the official chauffeur, because I don't drive in the city. Funny (peculiar, not ha-ha) how I did it for years when I worked by the Bevo Mill, but now my highway confidence has plummeted. My sister the ex-mayor's wife will meet them in Backroads Monday morning, and accompany Mom to the hospital. The ex-mayor is taking the day off work to care for their 9-month-old grandbaby, usually the task of my sister the ex-mayor's wife. I will be going to school as usual, since someone has to haul The Pony around morning and afternoon. Mom said she didn't want me to go, that it was bad enough that Hick and MSTEMW would be sitting around waiting all day. In fact, she had first wanted my sister not to go, and for Hick to leave as soon as they took her into surgery. I told her that was not happening. Listen to me. Such a great daughter, and not even going to be at the hospital with my mom. I daresay I might not be a Five-Dollar Daughter for a while.

Remember that growth on Mom's face that her doctor decided to lop off in the office, after forgetting to tell her to stop her blood-thinner, and then rescheduled? Well. He didn't get all of that growth. Which nobody knew until Mom told me way too after the fact that there was a place on her cheek that was bothering her after Doc did that office surgery. She always had her hair poofed down over that area, and I had not seen it since visiting her daily and cleaning the area until the stitches came out. Seriously. That European Space Agency's Rosetta satellite would have been able to see it FROM SPACE, had Rosetta not been so concerned with landing that probe Philae on comet 67P.

So I made mom get another appointment, which took a while, and then Doc referred her to a specialist at Barnes, but the office gals took so long getting that appointment that Mom called and asked for Doc himself, who got her an appointment within a week instead of six weeks, and then the specialist needed more tests, and those tests required further tests, and, well, this has gone on simply too long. In fact, Mom was supposed to have surgery LAST Monday, but no, a further test was ordered, and a different specialist visit, and now Mom is at her wit's end. I don't blame her. The forecast of up to five inches of snow for our area tonight is not making it any easier.

Anyhoo...I'm sure Mom will be fine. This surgeon says he does 35 of these operations a year. Mom is in good health for an recent octogenarian. She doesn't smoke or drink, has most of her faculties, and will NOT be requesting wine with her evening meal, or heroin. I can't vouch for slaw, though.

Yes. I'm sure she will be fine. It's not like she'll be wearing a peanut suit and a rogue elephant will be waiting in the operating room to shell her.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Cat Outstanding In His Field

This morning as I backed T-Hoe out of the garage to do our weekly shopping a day early because of the impending snowpocalypse of 0.2 inches that is expected in Backroads by Sunday morning...The Pony, unfettered by the responsibility of driving, seated directly behind me, said, "THAT'S not creepy at all." I finished backing before running a tire up over the six-inch curb around the carport slab (unlike Hick in a ice storm several years ago) and directed my attention to the front yard.

That's what we saw. A creepy fat cat staring at us. Not amused. The Pony got another shot of him as I started up the driveway. Not that it was any less creepy.

Yeah. That's one obese cat. It's not like we feed him any more than the other cats. They get the same pile of cat kibble dumped into a communal black-and-white-speckled roasting pan every morning. Less a couple of handfuls (large) for my sweet, sweet Juno and (small) for poor stupid Ann every evening.

This is Stockings. He eats his feelings. Genius pushed to rescue him from the mailbox area down by the creek after somebody dumped a litter of kittens. We thought he was girl at first, and took him for spaying. He has never quite forgiven us, and the vet must have thought us simpletons, like those couples who have a surprise baby after nary an inkling low on nine months that they were pregnant.

You won't catch Val putting her cat on a treadmill and making him lose weight until he dies. No sirree, Bob! He can live out his days in his corpulent splendor. He hates us. The fastest he ever moves is trying to avoid a pat.

So...we go from this cat out sitting in our field to The Pony, outstanding in his field. He found out yesterday morning that he placed third in a writing contest! It's his first success, after limited submissions. He wins a T-shirt! Here's a link to his story. Not bad for a 16-year-old. Of course, I am not impartial.

The Pony has many irons in the fire. He is lately branching out into poetry. And Stockings? He is out.

Friday, November 14, 2014

They Might Want to Market These With a Different Purpose in Mind

In the never-ending selfless quest to provide her pupils with the basic necessities of life, such as Puffs With Lotion tissues for their snotty noses, which they use at approximately one box every two days...Val Thevictorian was struck with a burning question this very morning as she stowed away a three-pack in her classroom cabinet.

How strong does plastic have to be to hold Puffs together?

This question bubbled up in Mrs. Thevictorian's mind when she had difficulty separating the three boxes of Puffs from their hermetically-sealed, see-through plastic cocoon. After attempting a fingernail and tooth entry like a rank amateur, Mrs. Thevictorian switched to the old standby: car keys. A simple jab did not do the trick, so she had to resort to sawing with T-Hoe's long ignition key. And lest you ask, "Why doesn't Val just use the scissors?" Let the record show that Mrs. Thevictorian's scissors are put away properly in her desk, a hypotenuse away from the cabinet by the door where the tissues are stored.

Seriously. How tightly does this trio of Puffs need to be bound together? It's not like I'm going to use them as a raft to travel from Cuba to Florida. They don't have to withstand hurricane winds. Or protect the gold in Fort Knox. I'm not going to toboggan off Mount Everest on my triple-Puffs pack. Not using it to patch the hull of a battleship. It's not like I'm going to pry the boxes apart in the store, pay for one, and stuff the other two down my pants over my rumpus to shoplift them out the door while impersonating a Kardashian.

Hey, Procter and Gamble! Lighten up on the packaging. It shouldn't have to be this hard to get a good blow.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Apparently, The Pony Has an Affinity for Middle Age-d Peasant Women

Hick is not the only auction aficionado around this homestead. The Pony didn't fall far from the gnarled log that is his father. Oh, he doesn't clamor to attend every week. But when Hick commands him to go along, in order to drop him off somewhere he needs to be later, The Pony jumps.

Here is The Pony's latest purchase:

He calls them peasant ladies from the Middle Ages. He thinks they're bronze. They are heavy, but hollow. You can link them together by those scepter kind of thingies they're holding. Here's another view:

Yeah. Just a little bit creepy. I didn't see his treasure until this morning as we were getting ready to leave for school. He took them out of a mini spittoon (that's another story) and set them up on the kitchen table.

"What has Dad bought now?"

"Um. These are mine. That's his spittoon, but he's had it for a while."

"How did he know you'd want them?"

"I was with him. He asked if I wanted to bid on them, and I said, 'Um. Why not?' " That's as close to a yes as you're going to get from The Pony.

"How much did you spend?"

"Five dollars."

Okay. I don't know anything about peasant ladies from the Middle Ages made out of bronze, but I do know that surely they are worth five dollars as scrap metal. They're kind of creepy, though.

"What are they supposed to be, candle holders for tiny candles?"

"I don't know."

"It's kind of like they're playing Ring Around the Rosie. For the Bubonic Plague. The Black Death."

"No...I see them more as summoning a demon." The Pony likes to get me going.

"Shut up with that! That's not funny. Don't even talk about that. You're like my kids the other day, telling me they played with an Ouija Board. That they made themselves!"

"That's how the dibbuk box got started."

"STOP! I''m not talking about it. You know I can't stand stuff like that. Or that creepy Annabelle doll from that movie where I can't even watch the commercial and you laugh at me."

"Okay. I told you that story before anyway. It's not like I arranged them in a pentagram. You can hook them up any way you want, but a circle is the easiest. I just put them like this for now. They'll be in another arrangement in my room." As he moved them to the living room, he put them in two small sets of three.

I'd worry. But by the time he gets around to cleaning his room so there's a surface to set them on, he'll have forgotten all about this conversation.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Val Is a Proponent of the Law of Averages

Ahem. Let the record show that Val Thevictorian submitted three unsung masterpieces yesterday, and along with the one she sent off last week, she is on schedule to meet her goal of two submissions per week for the month of November.

Whoa! Stand back! I wouldn't want the glare from the reflection off my fingernails I have been polishing on my lapel for the last 24 hours to blind you. If that happened, I daresay you would be hard-pressed to keep up with such an arduous regimen of two submissions per week for the month of November, what with having to first learn to read and write braille.

Yes, Val is skipping merrily down the primrose path, plucking submissions from a wicker basket, strewing them all willy-nilly across the blogosphere. She's scattering submissions over the bedspreads of newlyweds in assorted honeymoon suites throughout the land, for aesthetic purposes, of course, not that they'll be doing any reading. Plenty more submissions where those came from...VAL'S HEAD! Uh huh. Val has enough submissions to weave a garland to drape across the shoulders of the steed who wins the Kentucky Derby next May, with more than needed left over to fill the Stanley Cup in June.

It didn't hurt that Val is not good with history, and assumed that Veteran's Day is always on a MONDAY, her vast store of common knowledge reinforced by the dinner held at her school Monday evening to honor our veterans. So Val got down to brass tacks, pulled out all the stoppers (oops, this is not about cut-class brandy decanters) stops, and kicked it up a notch to ensure that her submissions were ready to slip into the mail Tuesday evening on the way home from work. You know. The first day of mail service for the week. Except that Veteran's Day was TUESDAY. So technically, Val could have taken another day. But she didn't!

Anyhoo...three submissions are in the mail, last week's went out over the innernets, and by cracky, Val is pleased as punch that she has met her goal so far.

Excuse me while I go ice the arm that I was using to pat myself on the back.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

No Need To Start a Telethon for Val Just Yet

Hey! Have I told you about my newest disease? Wait! Come back! I'm sure you haven't heard this one. It's not like that time my mom went with me to an obstetrical appointment, and was near tears when I returned to the waiting room.

"Oh, honey! I was reading this magazine, and there was an article about a new disease which is sometimes fatal, and the more I read, the more I was convinced that I have it! I have all the symptoms! And then I turned to the back of the magazine to continue the article, and found out I'd been reading the pet column! It's a dog disease!"

No. It's not like that. I don't have a fatal dog disease. I didn't read about my symptoms in a magazine. No sirree, Bob! I gave myself a physical, and blanched at the findings. Okay. Not so much a physical as one might get at a doctor's office. More like an investigation of one's body after a red flag. Okay. Not so much a red flag as something out of the ordinary.

I was sitting here at my New Delly in my dark basement lair, and had a little itch on my left side, kind of over the rib cage. So I reached down to scratch, with my bare left hand, not with my red wooden backscratcher, because it was my RIBS, silly, not my BACK. And besides, my red wooden backscratcher is out by the blue recliner by the big screen TV.

So I reached down to scratch through the fabric of my purple pin-striped short-sleeved oxford big shirt, and had the most disconcerting realization that there was something on my skin! Not something like a bloated tick. That would be a dog disease. Try to keep up. I already told you it wasn't a dog disease. No, it was something like a firm mole. Not a mole like you might find tearing up your lawn. I'm pretty sure I would have noticed something that big up under my shirt before I felt an itch. Not a mole like a skin tag. They're flexible. They'll roll around like little blobs of that clear stuff that sticks labels on magazines.

No, this skin growth was firm, almost rectangular in shape, and as I scratched, IT MOVED! Not like that moved on George Costanza when he got a free massage from Raymond the physical therapist after getting a note from Jerry's dentist who was not Tim Whatley.

This rectangular skin growth came right off my rib skin! It was almost sickening. I had scratched off a mole! And there it was, sliding around under my shirt. Well. I couldn't let that go on for long. What if I had severed some minor blood vessels? I could be bleeding out. I'm on blood-thinners, you know. I resisted the urge to scream, "We've got a bleeder!" I had to determine the extent of the damage. I reached my hand up under the bottom of my shirt. Didn't feel any slime like blood. But there was the mole! I pulled it out from under the shirt to get a look at it by the glow of New Delly's monitor.

It was a tidbit of diced onion.

So THAT'S where that dropped morsel went as I bit into a hot dog with the works.

Never mind.