Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Because In My Mind, I Am 13 Years Old

Yesterday after school, The Pony and I rushed to the post office so I could mail a package to Genius. He was just home, you know, but I had conferences last week, and barely saw him 10 minutes each night. Which is probably how he preferred it. Anyhoo...I had some treats to send him for the Easter holiday, just to surprise him. If you have Googled yourself again, Genius, HOWDY! Guess it won't be a surprise after all.

So this box was about the size of a shoebox. Awkward. Heavier than a pair of shoes. When we got to the post office, every parking spot save one was full. Not the dead-mouse-smelling post office. The main facility, with covered off-street parking. We have been making stops there since the hours changed in Deadmouseville, and I always have to wait behind people making the most ridiculous requests, or rightfully complaining about their piss-poor service. Like the guy who needed his wedding presents, but the mailman delivered them to apartment 1 instead of apartment 11, and the clerk told him that he would have to get those gifts back himself, since the post office was not responsible. NOT RESPONSIBLE!

Last week, I was behind a woman filling out four separate passport request forms, two of them being for the early-elementary-age boy and girl who were bouncing off the walls and running to jump and slap their father(figure's) hand. Why he thought entertaining kids inside the post office when there was a perfectly good covered off-street parking lot with a wide sidewalk right on the other side of that brick wall is beyoooooond me.

I gathered an extra stamp and slapped it on the card that Genius is also getting, to throw him off suspicions of a package. Those big cards from the Dollar Store get too heavy when I put a couple of scratch-off tickets inside. Don't want him getting postage-due mail. I don't know if his dorm is set up to take a credit card or debit card for 49 cents.

"Pony. Hand me the box. I really don't want to go in here. I always have to wait behind weird people. I don't want to wait a long time. I'll be uncomfortable, standing there holding my package."

Heh, heh. It registered in my tiny dinosaur brain, what I'd just said. That, and I caught The Pony's eye in the mirror. And his resigned sigh of: "Really?"

"I mean standing there holding Genius's package."

"Um. No. Just no."

"Yeah. I guess that's not something you ever want to hear again."

"Uh huuuuhhhhh."

I live to embarrass those boys. Too bad Genius is missing all the fun.

Let the record show that after stepping through the door barely ahead of a Not-Heaven's-Angel-looking dude all dressed in black, with a bowl helmet, who had just gotten off a motorcycle, and smelled heavenly heavily of beer...I was the only person at the counter, and was served forthwith.

Genius would be pleased to know that the middle-aged mannish woman clerk handled his package like a pro. I might have to include that information in his next card.

Monday, March 30, 2015

His Life of Education Seems to Hurt Me Some

You know in the original True Grit, when Kim Darby as Mattie Ross tells John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn, "I will not bandy words with a drunkard"...Sure you do! Doesn't everybody know that classic Academy Award winner well enough to quote it line by line? If you don't, shame on you! You might as well be unable to retrieve any miniscule Seinfeld factoid from your memory.

Well, ol' Mattie Ross had a point there. I do not ride to school with a drunkard every day, but I ride with a reasonable facsimile: a 17-year-old know-it-all without even the common decency to ride shotgun beside me. It is next to impossible to engage in a meaningful conversation with somebody so disinterested sitting behind your head. We are on the verge of creating, unintentionally, a new "Who's On First?" routine.

"What was that? I heard something fall when I went around the curve."

"Nothing. Just the bag of trash."

"I want that cleaned out of here by tomorrow when we go by Aunt Sis's house. She already thinks this car is a rolling trash heap."

"I will. It's only been in here one day."

"WHAT? That bag of trash has been here for weeks."

"Noooo. Only since yesterday."

"You mean it's not full?"

"No. It's empty."

"Wait. Why would I hear it fall over if it was empty?"

"It didn't fall over. It fell off the seat."

"An empty trash bag can't fall off the seat and make a noise. It's a Walmart sack."

"I'm not talking about the trash bag."

"Yes you are! That's what you told me fell off."

"No. I said it was the bag of trash."

"I know!"

"Um. I'm going to throw it away today. I didn't yesterday, because there wasn't room in the trash bag."

"What are you talking about?"

"The bag of trash."


"No. They are not the same thing."

"So let me get this straight...the bag of trash fell off the seat and is empty, but the trash bag is too full."

"YES! Why can't you understand that?"

"It is useless trying to talk to you! You are definitely your father's son. You don't make a bit of sense."

"I told you yesterday, my bag of trash was empty! When you took me by Dairy Queen. I ate all my food. The paper bag is empty, just the wrappers are left. It won't fit in the trash bag, which is full. So I'm waiting to take it in the house when my hands aren't full. Why is that so hard to understand?"

"Oh, I don't know. Maybe because I think a bag of trash and a trash bag are the same thing. Silly me."

"Uh huh."

When I think back on all the crap I learn from The Pony, it's a wonder I can think at all.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Blow. It Must Stem From Having That Job on Their Mind All the Time.

What is it with guys and the bread sack?

Seriously. A bread sack is not a balloon. Yet every time I reach for the bread after Hick has had his way with the loaf, that bag is bloated like a paper lunch sack in the hands of a 13-year-old boy with the intent of causing a heart attack amongst the elderly faculty.

My dad used to do the same thing. "Air is a good insulator," he explained. Well then. I suppose construction workers are planning to stuff those poofy loaves in between the studs before putting on the drywall. Fashion designers can weave them together to make puffy coats that hold in body heat better than Gore-Tex. So if you knock over a wine display while waiting in the liquor store for your friends to buy a chocolate babka, you will have something to soak up the mess.

Fishermen could use them as floats for their nets. Kids can swing them at each other's heads without risk of injury, like carb-filled boxing gloves. Let's fill containers with them at the ends of highway guard rails to cushion cars in collisions. Use them in football helmets to cut down on concussions. Strap them to babies' butts as they're learning to walk.


Stop filling up the bread sacks with air. You are inviting the enemy in to destroy the inhabitant. Can you not simply squeeze out the atmosphere before twirling that plastic wrapper and twist-tying it like a rodeo cowboy hog-tying a steer?

What is it with you guys and the bread sack?

Saturday, March 28, 2015

You'll Never See His Picture On the Cover of the Rolling Stone

Yesterday, on that ill-fated trip to transfer the title of Mom's car, I endured several thumps from Even Steven. Among the affronts were:

*the stoppage of traffic, and one-lane passage, for pot-hole filling on the way to the license office

*the need for an unbroughten death certificate

*which necessitated a fruitless trip to the library on the bad advice of the DMV clerk

*a trip back home for the certificate

*a truck that pulled into the parking space right next to T-Hoe as I walked out of the DMV, parking at an angle with his back tire over the line, giving me about two feet of space, which is not enough to open T-Hoe's door completely, so that I had to shoehorn myself into the driver's seat, almost leaving my left foot out because I could barely wedge my shoe in through the crack

*a minimum wage worker at Captain D's who responded to the request of "lots of butter, a knife, tarter sauce, and ketchup" with four packets of butter, a knife, no tarter sauce, and 14 packets of ketchup

*the sudden appearance of an often-stopping mail truck just after committing to the road less traveled

*a fellow lottery-lover/chicken eater who cut in front of T-Hoe to usurp my rightful parking place at the gas station chicken store

*a mailman who had shoved my writing magazine into the far depths of EmBee to soak up yesterday's rain

*a tractor blading the potholed dirt of our gravel road. Slowly.

As I stopped at various destinations on our bill-paying Friday excursion, I sent a few texts to my sister the ex-mayor's wife to keep her updated on our progress while she was safely ensconced back at her immaculate-drivewayed, cleaning-manned house with her grandbaby. She showed about as much empathy as The Pony. Maybe a little more. "You should just go straight home and lock the doors."

I told her: "We're on the way to Captain D's. I hope The Pony doesn't get a hook."

As we sat at the Captain D's drive-thru waiting for The Pony's lunch, we saw movement across the drainage ditch, at the McDonald's parking lot. It was the Hamburglar, dancing around, waving at cars, cape flapping in the wind, wide-brimmed hat flopping to and fro.

"Pony! Get me a picture to send Sis!"

"My phone won't take one that far away."

"Zoom in. Here. I'll put the window down."

"That won't help." He snapped the picture through the tinted back passenger window. "It only goes halfway down."

"Here. I put the front window down. Lean over and shoot through there."

"I can't even hold the phone still like this. There."

"No! You have to get him when he's facing us. You can't even tell he's the Hamburglar from the side! You can't see his striped shirt. HEY! HAMBURGLAR! OVER HERE!"

"Don't. Besides, I already took a picture."

"Like he can see you in the car. You can't have a good picture through the window."

"It looks the same through the window or without."

"Yeah, right. Then how come it looks different to my eyes when I look through a tinted window than when I put it down?"

"I don't know."

"Send me your best picture. Then you're going to send it to Sis. But not yet. Wait until I send her a text."

Then I typed in, slowly, with one finger, as is my style, a text for Sis:
"Oh, no. I think the McDonald's is being robbed! Picture to follow, from The Pony."

He sent it. Sis sent back a message:
"I don't get it."

Of course I had to wait until I was at the traffic light by the local junior college to respond, since we were 10 cars back, and had to sit through two red lights: "That was the Hamburglar. Just joking about my very bad day."

She replied: "Oh. I enlarged the picture, and I still couldn't see a robbery."

So I told her: "I should have known. The Pony is a joke-choker."

Then I looked at the picture. There really is a Hamburglar there, right in the middle.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Unfortunately True Adventure of Me and My Sister the Ex-Mayor's Wife

I had today off because an eight-hour work day is somehow equivalent to nine hours of after-school time during the evenings of conference week.

Huh. There is no such thing as a day off in Val's world. Hick is buying my mom's car, because he has a fondness for one-owner vehicles driven only to town and back by little old ladies. So he decided I should meet Sis and start the paperwork so he can take possession. That Trailblazer has been sitting in the garage since Mom had her health issues last November. The garage which Sis has both door openers for, and the car for which she has both sets of keys.

Let the record show that the garage also has a keypad, and while I THINK I remember the number, I am not agile enough to dash out from under the closing door once I have opened it and need to hit the button for closure. No Indiana Jones am I. The Pony? Let's be real. He has an Indiana Jones fedora, but he wouldn't know a garage-door-closing button if it bit him on his rump. So we haven't seen the car lately, and assume it's there, even though Sis's daughter at first said she wanted it. That's what we were waiting on.

Sis and the ex-mayor gave us a price they looked up on Kelley, which was $1300 to $2400 less than what Hick looked up. Funny how that works out. Anyhoo...Sis said we need to do something with the car, and her little gal is no longer interested, so we agreed on a price that was what Hick said in the beginning, since dealers use the NADA and not Kelley. We're not out to cheat our thick-blooded relatives like they're some watery-veined car dealers. The price is the price in our eyes, no matter who is buying it.

Hick stopped by the license office near work to see what paperwork I would need. He declared I only needed three items: the title, the TOD paper, and my mom's title application. I questioned him numerous times, but that was the story he was sticking to. So off we went this morning to meet Sis and her grandbaby. The Pony was tasked with sitting in Sis's car so neither he nor the baby had to go in the license office.

As luck would have it (or Even Steven playing a prank) there was ZERO wait. We didn't even need a number. The License Gal looked over our documents. Had us both sign the title, and had me print Hick's name on it. Then she looked at Sis and said, "So you're GIFTING her with your share?"

Sis laughed. "Well, I guess I am, but it depends on how she acts. If she's nice to me, yes. But I could easily change my mind." The phone rang. License Gal picked up. Sis went on. "Of course, SHE HASN'T PAID ME YET, so maybe I shouldn't sign!"

Oh, dear. I leaned my head down behind that little half-wall thingy on the counter for the workers to hide behind while they make faces and stick out their tongues and otherwise ridicule us customers. I couldn't even hiss, because I didn't want License Gal or her counterpartner to hear. I mouthed viciously, "SHUT UP! THEY WILL CHARGE ME TAX IF THEY KNOW I AM BUYING YOUR SHARE!" Which is not what my mother wanted, or she would never have forked over ten dollars for that Transfer On Death title.

Sis straightened up. "Well, it's only a DOLLAR, but still..." She will not be taking home an Oscar any time soon.

I am guessing that License Gal was too absorbed in her phone call, because she asked again if Sis was gifting me with her half, and Sis said yes. Then I said I wanted a TOD on the new license, and LG said, "Oh, do you want to put your sister's name on there?"

"No. I am going to put my two boys' names on there."

Then it happened. "I just need the death certificate."

"Oh. I didn't bring one. They were right there on the counter beside my purse, but my husband checked with another license office about what we would need, and he didn't mention the death certificate."

About this time, Sis rolled her eyes and huffed. "And you SAID it would only take you ten minutes to get here, but it took you fifteen."

"Hey! I can't help that. We sent you a text by the mushroom factory. There is roadwork going on, and traffic was down to one lane."

"Oh, I wondered what they were doing." License Gal was downright chatty with no customers pawing at the turf.

"Yes. And now I have to go back through it twice to go home and get a death certificate."

"The library can give out copies of those. It's right over--"

"I KNOW where the library is. But I never knew they could give out death certificates. The county health center does, but I've never heard of the library doing it. What do you want to do, Sis? I hate for you to have to wait until I get it."

"Oh, she can go ahead and sign. Her part will be done. You'll just have to come back with the death certificate to apply for a new title."

And against my better judgment, I drove around the block to the library, where a little old lady looked at me like I had two heads, and said, "How could we do that? Can you access them on the computer? I wouldn't think so, because then people could do bad things!"

Yeah. Just as I thought. I drove home and got the death certificate and went back to the eighth circle of Not-Heaven license office, where I had to take a number. I waited. And waited. Then there was a hubbub, as both the workers hollered, "Ma'am! Do you have number 15?"

"No. I have number 12." I held it up.

"But we're serving number 15." Let the record show that I was the only person waiting.

"That's the first number you called since I came in and took 12 off the rack."

"Oh, well...come on over. People steal them, and put them back, and we never know what they're going to do with the numbers."

So I got the OTHER worker this time, and she didn't act at all like she knew what she was doing, as opposed to the Einstein who told me to get a death certificate at the library. I paid $11.00, and THINK I got the process taken care of. But I don't remember Sis signing a separate paper that Hick said she would need to do to relinquish her share. Hick, who told me by omission that I did not need the death certificate.

I have a feeling Hick is going to end up in the slammer for grand theft auto if he ever gets stopped driving Mom's car.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Lady Chattel-ly's Sister

In cleaning out Mom’s safe, my sister the ex-mayor’s wife and I found an old legal paper labeled “CHATTEL MORTGAGE, With Power of Sale.” It was for One 1960 Alstates Skyrocket 50’ House Trailer, Serial #XXXXX. Come on. You didn’t think I’d give the actual serial number, did you? That thing might still be out there somewhere. Yes, that was my childhood home, though not the first, because I am told we used to rent a house up by the elementary school.

Anyhoo, this deal was between my dad and his mom and dad, for $60 per month, due on the 28th, including 6% interest. In the event that there was a default in payment, whole or part, the entire amount became immediately due and payable, and his parents would take possession of our home. Talk about tough love, baby! This document was stamped and filed by the recorder of deeds.

So we got to looking at it, and Sis said, “I missed the first night in our trailer. I was at the hospital being born.”

“Ahem. I was 18 months old then. HELLO! I don’t think I spent the night there alone, because I’m pretty sure Dad would have taken Mom to the hospital and waited for your grand entrance.”

Sheesh! It ain’t all about you, you know!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

How Much Room Could It Take Up, Really?

Genius the absentminded professor is home for a couple of days. Barely.

I knew he was driving in from college yesterday. He's been on a trip with the solar car team since last Thursday. After a one-day turnaround, he said he'd be here Tuesday evening, maybe 4:00 or 5:00. Since I had conferences at school, I told him he'd be on his own until I got home around 8:00. I asked if he would drop by and pick up The Pony, since he would be passing within 50 yards of my school building as he buzzed down the two-lane highway with my new used $600 color laser printer than he got me for $40.

That was too much to ask, of course. So to stop the gale force wind of his heavy sigh from coming through the phone and bursting my eardrum, I told him to forget it. The Pony was okay with hanging out in the math lab, computing and texting, until I could leave. Besides, he was getting a Chinese carryout supper with the faculty. Which took the sting out of his first conference night where his grandma didn't pick him up after school and whisk him away to her house for high-speed internet and buttered noodles.

So there I sat Tuesday morning, not even halfway through my 12-hour day, verbally jousting with freshmen to elicit a quality product from the education assembly line, when my phone rang. Not my cell phone. Like smokin' in the boys' room, that's against the rules. The school line. I assumed it would be the office, requesting this one or that one to grace them with his presence. But no. As I picked up the receiver, I saw Genius's name appear in the caller area.



"Yeah...are you all right?"

"Um. Yeah. I'm okay. I can't get in the house. I don't have a key. I took it off my keyring because I didn't have room, and I thought about it as I was driving back from Michigan, but then I still forgot to put it back on before I started home."

"Well...you can look in the secret hiding place. We still have one door that goes with that key, even though we changed the other locks. I guess that key is still there. I sure didn't remove it. You'll have to crawl. Maybe through cat poop. You remember, don't you? When you were little, I had to send you to get it."

"I know where it should be. I think. But not which side of the corner."

"You'll just have to look. If you don't want to crawl, I guess you could push in that lattice, and we'll repair it later. The only other thing is to drive back over here to get my key. Or to your aunt's house. She will have our key on Grandma's keyring. But that's only a couple miles from here."

"I didn't really want to drive all the way back there. I'll see if I can find the key."

Thirty minutes later, there was Genius knock knock knocking at Val's classroom door. I talked to him a few moments. He said he might go visit a couple of teachers while he was there. I told him to make sure he checked in with the office. He went out the door and turned back to grab it just before it locked him out. He looked across the room at me and ducked his head.

"I forgot. The key." He opened up my cabinet and removed it from my keyring.

I hope the solar car team sticks a spare up under the fender in a magnetic box.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

I Don't Even Trust Him To Light a Candle With a Wooden Match

I'm not sure what's up with The Pony. He might be trying to grow up, or he might have an ulterior motive concerning his paramour (if left unsupervised, and if either of them ever gets a driver's license).

On Sunday, when I asked what he wanted for lunch, he chose pasta. Sometimes he has it with only butter. Sometimes he has it with red sauce. He's not picky. Just some Barilla elbow macaroni out of the box. It's not like I make it from scratch.

The Pony went looking to see if, indeed, we had any pasta, or if he was about to be poor Mother Hubbard's dog. Yes. He found some penne. And a jar of pizza sauce. So pasta it was! But here's the interesting thing: The Pony stayed in the kitchen during the preparation.

"I think I need to learn how to cook for myself. For when I go to college."

"Well, you're going to have a meal ticket for the first year. I don't really think they'll want you anywhere around a stove."

"But Genius said his dorm had a kitchen, and you could check out a spatula and skillet and stuff."

"Yes. But I don't think that's a good idea for you."

"I want to learn. So maybe this summer I can cook for myself."

"Okay. Here we go. I put a squeeze of this minced garlic in the water, because you like garlic. And I put a squeeze of it in your sauce. Because you like garlic. You don't like meat. So I put a little dab of butter in your sauce to give it some fat. And I usually put in a packet of Splenda. And grind in some black pepper. Don't turn it up too high, or it will splatter all over the stove. There. Your water is boiling. Let's put in some pasta. It will expand. Stir it around, but don't hold your hand over the steam. It will burn you. You can turn down the burner from high so it doesn't boil over. If it does, blow across the top until it stops, or lift the pan by the handle so it's off the heat for a second. Not too low, though, if you turn it down. It still has to boil. Watch your time so you don't overcook it. I put a dab of butter in that water, too, and some salt. Okay. Turn off the burners. Now when you go to pour out the pasta into the strainer, do not splash. Take it slow. Never set the dry pan back on the hot burner. It will be too hard to clean. Shake the strainer around to get the water out of your noodles. Pour them in the bowl. Pour the sauce over it. For you, that's it."

"Thank you so much for making this for me. I think I can remember how to do it for myself."

"Now...go take the laundry out of the washer and put it in the dryer."

Might as well teach him all about living on his own while I have the chance.

Monday, March 23, 2015

the gum draft

little stick of doublemint gum
thought it was
just the paper
but no
the whole stick of gum
brittle to the touch
carried in her clutch bag
down inside the purse
for just a garlicky emergency
but sadly no rain hat
all folded and slid into
a flat packet

Value Is in the Eye of the Safe-Keeper

Yesterday I went to my sister the ex-mayor's wife's house to go through things we found in Mom's safe. Don't go thinking she had one of those fancy-schmancy, in-the-wall, behind-the-Mona-Lisa-print picture frames. Nope. In her family room Mom had a giant heavy metal pale yellow industrial safe on wheels. Which kind of defeats the purpose of a safe, does it not, if people can wheel it away? Anyhoo...my dad brought it home when his office moved to a new building, and there it has sat, ever since.

I sent Sis a text. A warning. "I'm on my way. I hope my car doesn't leave a dirty spot in your driveway."

But Sis was too sly for that. "Don't worry. The ex-mayor has the hose out." Now one might assume that Sis meant the ex-mayor would clean up any mess my car left. But one would be wrong. In fact, by daring to assume, one would have made an...never mind. Sis went on: "So you can wash the driveway before you leave." Indeed. Not without my trusty assistant, who was out practicing his driving with Hick.

That phonograph needle thingy was not the only treasure in Mom's safe. It's not like she was Fort Knox or the Denver Mint. But Mom had a bunch of coins that we still have not divvied up. She was not the collector. My dad was. There was various memorabilia from days gone by. Old report cards. Newspaper clippings. Grandchildren crafts. Mom truly adored her grands. We found some pocket knives that used to upset The Pony when Grandma came to school. "Mom. Grandma has KNIVES in her purse, and that's a weapon, but she says it's okay and she's not taking them out!"

There were several baggies that each held one necklace. I told Sis I was pretty sure they were gifts The Pony had given her for Christmas and birthdays, that he had won out of the grabber machine at Walmart. She used to wear them to church, you know, and people would tell her how pretty they were, and Mom would say, "Thank you. My grandson gave it to me." Not mentioning the grabber, of course.

We found my dad's gold watch (A LONGINE!) that he got when he retired from Southwestern Bell. And you thought that was just a myth, the gold watch upon retirement! Yep. No Timex for Ma Bell. There was a stash of Dad's Masonic accouterments, with cufflinks and tie tacks and ring. You don't just drop that stuff off at Goodwill, you know.

Some things were Mom's mother's and dad's stuff. A bible. Birth certificates. Marriage certificate. Some totally random receipts, like for a trolling motor. Tax receipts. Pay stubs. A notice that an investment was currently making 11.5 percent interest. BOY HOWDY! That's how folks back then could achieve the American Dream. We also found some things my dad's mom had given her. She and her husband were amateur gemologists, and used to make jewelry.

And then we were puzzled. "Look at this!" It was a pearl necklace. Several strands, with pearls of varying sizes. "And it even has this replacement clasp in the bag with it."

"I know! It almost looks real to me. Look at the shine. And how they are on the string. And those that are imbedded in the clasp. I think somebody was taking good care of this. I wonder if Grandma left it to Mom. I never saw Mom wear it."

"I guess we won't know unless we take it to a jeweler. The worst they can do is laugh at us."

"But look at it. If it wasn't something valuable, Mom would have had it upstairs, laying in her jewelry tray with her everyday stuff. Not in a baggie with a spare clasp, locked up in her safe."

"Oh. You mean like these?" And Sis held up the baggies with the grabber machine necklaces.


We had a good chuckle over that one.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

And Now, It's Time to Play "Guess That Contraption!"

Sorry. I don't have a high-dollar host for my little show. It's still in its infancy. So let us get right to the point.

Do You Know What THIS Is?

Come on. I know some of you old fogies will recognize it. In fact, my first guess was right, but I had discarded it immediately when I saw those two screwdriver-looking projections. You know what they always say...stick with your first instinct.

Here are some clues, in case the answer is not as clear as the nose on your face:

*It was in my mom's safe

*It's about an inch long

*My sister the ex-mayor's wife didn't fight me for it

*It was in a square plastic box with a clear top, laying on a green piece of foam that had aged into powder

*Mom did not work for the defense industry

Good luck. There's no prize or anything. Not even a grand title to brag about. And I suppose if you guess right, you will be dating yourself. Not in a creepy honking your horn instead of going to the door to pick yourself up for a movie and burger and fries kind of dating. Like showing everybody how old you are, without making them cut you open and count the rings, or analyzing your Carbon 14. (Heh,heh. I said ANALyzing!).

Best of luck, and may you all win.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

What Was I Thinking? Hick is the Red Chief of Husbands.

You know, there for a while, I thought Hick might be stepping out on me.

After all, he would disappear for hour upon hour, leaving no information about where he was headed or when he would return. And then there were the three-hour trips to the barber shop for a haircut, when he hardly even has any hair. And those times he had to go to work on a Sunday morning to pick something up. And all those evenings he said he was spending over in the BARn.

Still, I didn't have hard evidence. He didn't come home smelling of perfume. No lipstick on his blue collar. That uniform supply company must be wizards at muddying up the water. Those phone calls from a woman turned out to be the lady in charge of the youth bowling league, and I assume the motel room he wanted me to reserve in Jefferson City for a Friday night and Saturday night in May is for himself and The Pony.

This week I thought I had him! The Pony pulled a letter out of EmBee addressed to Hick. It had a handwritten address, and was only to Hick, not to "and Mrs." or "The Family of." The return address was a last name and a street address, from a town near where Hick works. AHA!

But I didn't open it. It did not look like a bill. I would not want Hick opening my mail. So I laid it aside, by his banana area on the kitchen counter, where I dole out his cash allowance every Thursday. Hick walked right on by it when he came home.

"So...what's that letter you got?"

"Letter? I don't know. I saw it there."

"Well, I'm going to open it. It might be a bill."

"All right."

I carried it into the living room. Hick was not too invested in the contents. He grabbed the remote and clicked the TV off the local news and Seinfeld, which I had been switching between, to one of his car shows. I stuck my finger into the end, and ripped down the top with my finger. The suspense was palpable. I felt like Charlie Bucket opening a Wonka Bar, with Grandpa Joe and Grandma Josephine and Grandpa George and Grandma Georgina all leaning toward me in anticipation. I unfolded it. Handwritten. Addressed to Hick.

It was from a septic tank cleaning service.

Hmpf. Just goes to show: EVERYBODY knows Hick is full of crap.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Oh Won't Yooooou...Show Me the Way

Genius is in the midst of a road trip. No, he's not with those Delta House boys, picking up Fawn Liebowitz (or her roommate as a stand-in after that unfortunate kiln accident) and driving to a roadhouse where they will  have their dates danced with. Nope. He's on his way to Ann Arbor for a solar car meeting. He's a big fish in the solar car pond of his college.

Apparently, this trip was nearly a 14-hour drive. Genius called me last night to say they had stopped, and were about four hours away from their destination. This morning he sent me a text to say that there was snow in Ohio.


Since when was Ohio on the way to Michigan? I brought up the subject at the faculty lunch table. Just to find out, you know, if Genius was lost. He was the official driver for this trip. A kind soul took out his cell phone and showed me that yes, Ann Arbor is just across the border from Dayton. Really!

I sent Genius a text. "I was really worried that you took a wrong turn. Then an old history teacher showed me on his phone that you DO go through Ohio to get to Michigan. Huh. I haven't been so shocked since I leaned (last year) that England is an ISLAND!"

Several hours later Genius sent another text. I don't know that because I am on my phone all the live-long work day, but because I can turn it on at lunch and after school and see who has tried to reach me. So Genius said, "That's okay. I thought Iowa and Indiana were reversed. Until this trip."

Heh, heh. I guess Genius spent all that time worried that his Garmin was leading him astray, what with heading east instead of north from his college. And I suppose he did not want to question its authority, since he has a sweet internship deal with Garmin this summer. In Kansas.

I hope he can find his way there.

This geography thing seems to be hereditary. If only scientists could isolate the locus of that DNA sequence, and start working on a cure! In the meantime, all us smart people will be unable to locate each other to propagate the species, and people like Hick will get together and populate the world.

Handbasket Factory: Opening Soon

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Note For Texas: Don't Mess With Val

Those folks at the Windows Service Center are SO helpful, don't you think? How they research their records and find your phone number so they can call you to explain problems with your Windows Computer. Problems they can help you with over the phone. Yes, they're such a boon to the elderly, who would not even know their Windows Computers have a problem if not for these selfless souls.

Apparently, I'm elderly.

I had just gotten home from a long day at school making sure I'm caught up for the end of the quarter tomorrow, and gassing up T-Hoe,  and sending The Pony on an expedition in Walmart to procure Hick's breakfast biscuits, and picking up a personal pan pizza for supper for The Pony and myself...when the phone rang at 6:05. I had barely had time to slip into my sweatpants with the hole at the hip, and my comfy blue sweatshirt with the salsa stain, and my red Crocs. I had not even gathered my Hidden Valley Ranch dip and broccoli and cauliflower as my side dish when the house phone rang. It has a gatekeeper, you know. And it announced: "Call from...Texas."

Yeah. I don't like how my phone gets all dramatic and pauses to emphasize who the call is from. I should have known better than to run to answer before the fourth ring. Should have let the machine pick up. But this call was from TEXAS. You don't mess with Texas. Texas wouldn't call little ol' Val without a good reason. That office for the IRS identity theft investigation unit is in Texas. Uh huh. You don't know how hard THAT was to find out, unless perhaps your read about it on one of my blogs or the other. They give you the runaround for about six months until you get the right address. Check it out on the internet. Any good sleuth can crack their code if you find their handbook.

Anyhoo...I wouldn't have answered except that I thought it might have something to do with identity theft. I just mailed off our taxes, you know. Because we can't file online without a PIN because of Genius's identity theft issue last year, and you can grow a long white Uncle Sam beard while waiting on the line to establish a PIN.

At first there was no answer when I picked up. After a couple of rounds of "Hello...hello...HELLO?" a person started to talk. She was trying to enunciate very clearly, but, like when Gretchen Wieners tried to make "Fetch" happen, it just wasn't working.

"Is this Mrs. Thevictorian?"

"Yes." I was curt. Not cute. Not accommodating. Not sweet.

"I am calling from the Windows Service Center about your Windows computer..."


I felt just the tiniest bit guilty, because she had an Asian accent, and no matter what type of Asian accent, I always think of Miyoshi Umeki, TV's Mrs. Livingston, talking to Mr. Eddie's Father. Yeah. I'm pretty sure Mrs. Livingston wasn't calling from beyond the grave to hack my computer.

So I don't feel all that guilty.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

I Hope She Doesn't Have to Leave the Key in the Door and Abandon Her House

My niece bought a house. She's a teacher of tiny little kindergarten people, with a year-old daughter and a working-man husband. They gave up their apartment lease to move in last summer, but some work had to be done before the new house would pass inspection. So they moved in with my sister the ex-mayor's wife for a couple of months until it was completed. They're still getting everything completely stowed away now that they're in it. Sis had a story the other day when I stopped by.

Sis had gone over to visit. She was helping put some playthings away in the room designated as the toy room. She wrinkled up her nose. Something didn't smell quite right. She didn't want to say anything. It was only that one room. But she couldn't help herself.

Sis: "Is it just me, or does this room smell funny?"

Niecy: "It's not you. There's an odor."

Sis: "It's only this one room. What is it? Paint? Some kind of chemical? It's kind of strong. Maybe you shouldn't let her play in here until you get this cleared up."

Niecy: "We've tried everything. Glade. Stick-ups. Febreeze. Nothing works."

Nephew-In-Law: "I know what is it. It just started smelling when we moved her toys in. The toys that had been stored at my grandma and grandpa's house. It's BO. That smell is body odor from my grandpa. He won't wear deodorant. He never has. He says his people never wore it when he was growing up, and he doesn't see any reason to wear it now. Sometimes Grandma tries to put it on his armpits while he's asleep, but he wakes up. I'm sure that's what this smell is. It really stinks. We can't get rid of it."

Not a valet stinking up a car. A grandpa stinking up the toy room. You can't exactly wash a house with tomato juice. I hope Niecy doesn't have to leave the key in the lock and abandon her house.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Truth is SO Much Stranger Than Val’s Convoluted Tales

Don’t stop me if you’ve heard this one. Seriously. I know I’m like a broken record lately. You don’t even have to comment. What can be left to say? I know how hard it is to politely pretend that Val has not gone off the deep end and is currently sinking like a granite boulder to the bottom of the Marianas Trench. Just bear with me. You don’t have to encourage me. I will continue with these stories until there are no more such stories to tell. Consider it my therapy, and each of you my therapist. Which is not, by the way, pronounced “the rapist” as one of my colleague’s students read from a textbook long ago, and Darrell Hammond as Sean Connery making a mockery of Jeopardy might have you believe.

I have been feeling a bit downhearted the last couple of days. Yesterday on the way to school, I told The Pony I felt a great sadness. Poor Pony. He said, “It must be something I’ve done.” No, sweet Pony. It’s not you. It’s me. I assured him that it had nothing to do with him. I was just missing his grandma. To which he said, “Aww.” Because even though he doesn’t really care about helping people, his mom is an exception.

After school, we went by Mom’s house to turn on different lights and adjust the shades. No need for people to think the house is abandoned. The Pony ran in as usual to do the work, while I sat in the driveway in T-Hoe. Sad. Because that’s how I used to drop things off for Mom. I felt like she could come walking out to the yard any minute, and stand beside the driveway and talk to me. Her regular self. Not her cane-walking self after her seizure. I really miss her, you know. Sweatpants with the hole in the knee and all.

Last night The Pony went upstairs for his shower routine before I came out of my dark basement lair. I was lonely. I sat down in the recliner about 9:30 and started watching a DVR of Cutthroat Kitchen. The contestants were making a tuna melt, and one lady bid over $19,000 of her $25,000 on the very first item, a glob of cooking utensils all connected in a blob by their handles melted together. I was still feeling sad. I really wanted to call Mom and talk about that show. And about the day I’d had at school. But…well…Mom is no longer available. So I got to talking to her a little bit anyway. It’s just that we no longer need a phone, and she doesn’t really respond.

This morning I got up at 4:50, the regular time, and I was still sad. I used to call her every morning at 6:00, you know, to start the day. If I didn’t call by 6:05, she was ringing me. I packed lunches and was ready for the shower by 5:15 as usual. As I waited for the shower to warm up, I let out a few tears, talked again to Mom, but quietly, you know, because Hick needs his beauty rest, not that he could hear me through the door with the shower going and his breather pumping out cold germy air.

I just told Mom how much I miss her. That I know she’s fine, and I’m fine, but kind of sad lately. And I did what I know I should not do, and blatantly asked for something impossible. “Mom, if it’s not too much trouble, could you give me some kind of sign that everything’s going to be okay? Nothing big. Just a little sign that I’ll know is from you.” Then I looked at the bathroom rug, you know, to see if maybe there was a ladybug there again. But there wasn’t. So I told myself, “Stupid. It doesn’t work like that.” But I looked all around the walls, too, just in case. You never know. But there was nothing. I got in the shower. Cried a little bit, you know, feeling sorry for myself. This is going to take a while.

By 5:30 I was out and ready for my chair nap. I made sure Hick got up, and The Pony. I watched a little morning news, just to check the weather. Huh. No snow in the forecast. Looks like I’m going to have to work every day until the end of the school year! Then I put the TV on TBS, because at 6:00, after laying in the La-Z-Boy trying to sleep, with those infernal fleabags barking on the porch, and Hick thumping around in the bathroom on the other side of the wall, I watch Married With Children. That show is almost as good as Seinfeld. They don’t make ‘em like they used to.

Of course Hick came out of the bathroom at 5:50 this morning, so I barely caught five winks. I tried to catch a few more elusive ZZZs, all snug under my afghan, in the dark of not-yet-sunrise daylight saving time. Those dogs started in again as Hick went up the driveway at 6:00. I had hoped to snooze until 6:10, because without my call to Mom these days, that’s when I start to get ready. But with the racket, I gave up. I clicked on the TV.

Wait a minute! Since when did Peg Bundy have a bindi? (Okay, I didn’t know the name of it then and had to look it up as I wrote this). Yep. Right there in the middle of her forehead was a dot. I turned on the light.
It was a ladybug.

Thanks, Mom.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Yes, Apparently It IS Too Much to Ask

The Pony doesn't ask for much. A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down his pants. WAIT! That was Chuckles the Clown, before he met his untimely end, being shucked to death by an elephant while dressed as a peanut. I hear he had a rip-snortin' funeral.

No, The Pony only expects a couple of meals a day, a ride to wherever he needs to go, an internet connection, and phone service. So it came as quite a surprise when he asked a favor from his father on Sunday. I was left out of the loop, until Hick had to brag about it.

"The Pony wants me to build him a place to keep his stuff. His armor, his swords, his castle, his shields, his warriors. He has a lot of stuff, and there's no room for it in his room. Nobody can see it. When I'm done with the barbershop, I'll start on his."

"Oh. I thought that maybe when I retire, which is NEXT SUMMER, you know...that you could build me a little workshop. Like a writer's retreat. So I wouldn't be in the dark basement all by myself when The Pony goes off to college, and you're still working."

"Huh. I guess I could. What did you have in mind?"

"Kind of like a little barn. Like a half barn. You know, with that barny roof, and a porch coming off the front side, like a lean-to."

"I have no idea what you're talking about. You'll have to draw it."

Seriously? Hick doesn't know what a barn looks like? Give me a break. So I drew it out.

"See? This is from the end. See how the roof should have those four sections? And how the roof of the lean-to slopes out for the porch? And I'd need some windows, and a source of electricity, and internet connection, and a way to get a little bit of heat. I don't really think I'd need a loft, because I wouldn't go up there, but if there were some stairs, like captain's stairs, somebody else could go up there."

"Huh. I'm sure Genius put in a good enough router that you could get your internet. I guess I could put it out in the front."

"I don't want it in the front yard! That would look stupid!"

"Well, I'm putting The Pony's shed next to my barbershop. I could put it on the other side."

"No. I don't want it there. I want LIGHT. And I don't want to be by the stinkin' chicken pen and goat pen. I was thinking about out back, by the pool, in the corner of the yard."

"I guess I could put one there."

He went on to tell my (like I was actually listening) about the materials he still had to start on The Pony's shed. Then he frowned when he started thinking about mine.

"We'll have to buy some kind of siding..."

"I just want metal. Like a little barn. I'm not going to LIVE in it. I won't heat it all the time like you do. Red metal walls, white metal roof."

"Oh." A few minutes later, Hick, the Master Builder, said, "Maybe you should just pick out a little pre-made building at Lowe's."

Can you believe it? He builds cabins and workshops and mini-barns and outhouses and barbershops and Ye Olde Medieval Memorabilia shops, but he has no interest in building his loving wife a writer's retreat that would sit next to him while he fritters away his retirement years floating in the pool.

I might as well chain myself to my proposed handbasket factory. Looks like we're gonna need a lot of 'em.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Backroads Roadshow 3-15-15

I really need to start a regular feature called Sunday Morning Auction Roundup. Where I display Hick's latest bargains.

This morning he informed me that he bought a tank of propane for $20. I immediately imagined one of those big tanks that sit behind a house as the sole heating and cooking source.

"How are you going to get it home?"

"I brought it in the van. It's not that big. For the grill. They cost a lot more to get them filled at Casey's or the gas station."

"How do you know there's any propane in it? You might have bought an empty tank."

"I can feel it, Val. It's heavy. When they're empty, they're not heavy."

Whatever. I didn't know you could feel the weight of gas like that. Is a tank of compressed air heavier when it's full than when it's empty? I don't know. That's how Hick gets away with telling me stuff like that.

Now we come to the good stuff. But first the not-so-good stuff.

"Look at this glass! I got in on a table full of stuff that I only paid $3.50 for! If my doctor hadn't retired, I'd have give it to him."

"Uh. That's for a proctologist. Your doctor was a general practitioner."

"Yeah, but he woulda got a kick out of it. I guess I could give it to my urologist."

"Again...not a proctologist."

"No, but he sticks his finger up my butt to check my prostate."

"ALL RIGHT! Too much information! No wonder nobody wanted that thing."

"It still has the original tag! It's worth $22.50."

"It's not even worth a fraction of $3.50. Nobody wanted it. That's why it was at the auction on a table full of stuff."

"I thought it was cute. And look at this."

"What in the world...? Hey! Pony! Come here. You've gotta get me some pictures."

"Here, Pony. Take this."

"What IS it?"

"It's Thomas Jefferson sitting on a boot."


"It's a knick knack. People set them on shelves. I thought it was neat. It was on that table of stuff, too."

"Now there's a surprise."

"Get a side view of him, too, Pony. And I got something for you. It's on the porch by your other suit of armor."

Yeah. Well. That's no BOOT like I've ever seen. It looks like Thomas Jefferson is taking a crap, while spreading out his long-tailed coat. The whole thing is about four inches high. It might be a tiny spittoon. It might be a candle holder. It might be a shot glass. Don't know. I'm not in a hurry to call Antiques Roadshow.

Now here it the part that is actually kind of cool, and cost $2.00. For The Pony. And you can bet Hick will extract his cash from his wallet without telling him.

They are metal, about 18 inches tall. Looks like Hick gave that one the once-over with his toothbrush and toothpaste. I think it'll clean up quite nicely.

We're gonna have to build a bigger house.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Here In Backroadsia

What comes down must go up.

Hey, remember all that snow and sleet that fell here in Backroads a couple of weeks ago? It melted! And then we had two inches of rain. So the creeks are up, and Val is going around her elbow to get to her thumb when she goes to town. At least there's a convenient second way out of her hillbilly compound now. Used to be she had to drive halfway to Hick's work on the back roads, then come down the highway for ten miles to get back to where she almost started from.

I returned from my thumb town around noon, and discovered Hick home from work, puttering around the garage. Okay, I didn't see him right off. Just his $1000 Caravan parked inside. I pulled in and opened T-Hoe's rear for The Pony to carry in the Save A Lot stuff. There was a pleasant smell, clean, so unlike the smell when I left, of naughty cat excretia. Those lazy fleabags can't be bothered to go out in the rain.

"Dad's brushing his van's teeth!"

Well. The Pony is sometimes a bit obscure in his references, so I didn't question him. I got out of T-Hoe and inhaled that wonderful not-cat-excretia scent. Somebody should make a dangly cardboard thing for car mirrors with that scent, in the shape of a pile of cat doodoo, perhaps, encircled, with a line struck through it. I could market it on the counter of my proposed handbasket factory. Or GIVE them away, with my business details imprinted, as an advertising gimmick.

There sat Hick in front of his Caravan, on a red milk crate, looking suspiciously like that one which used to be screwed to the wall of the house by the front door to receive packages. He was working his arm back and forth, following it with a red shop towel.

"I heard at the auction last week from my buddy that you can get your headlights clean and bright by polishing them with toothpaste. So I got out the toothbrush the dentist gave me last week, and that little tube of toothpaste he gave me with it, and I'm working on my headlights. It's really easy!"

That's right. The Thevictorian family's patriarch pays $1000 for shoe inserts, drives a $1000 Caravan with no speedometer, gets his teeth cleaned twice year, uses the same toothbrush for who knows how many decades, and BRUSHES HIS VAN'S HEADLIGHTS WITH NEW TOOTHPASTE AND TOOTHBRUSH. I'm pretty sure those headlights would have come just as clean if a larger brush of some kind was used.

My kids don't know how lucky they are to have broken the cycle.

Meanwhile...here in Backroadsia, the rain keeps a fallin',
The creeks keep a-risin', and Val keeps a-bawlin',
Waste Management keeps ditchin' and the trash needs a-haulin',
Just another day.

Maybe you'll recognize whose song I copied there. Maybe not.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Gift That Keeps On Giving, as Long as I Foot the Bill

For all of you who clicked in here hoping to follow Hick's adventures at The Good Feet Store...you will be sorely disappointed. Just like Hick, I'm sure, upon reading that letter yesterday from The Good Feet Store, informing him that the branch where he spent $1000 on shoe inserts, because he was too embarrassed to tell them he would not pay that much, was going out of business, but detailing the location of other branches that would be happy to serve his needs. I'll bet they would!

Yeah. You don't really think I let Hick READ that letter, do you? I did not. What he doesn't know won't cost me another $1000.

No, we're talking about Genius here. Genius. Who was once termed by The Pony to be my Gift From Below. "You know what I mean, Mom. I don't mean under the ground." Yeah. I got it. Especially since it came right after The Pony informed me that he was my little Gift From Above around the age of four.

So...Genius sent me a text this morning, while I was working, of course, with my phone off as per workplace policy, that he had bought me a spectacular color printer. A color printer worth $600, for which he paid the low, low sum of $40. Which he was not shy about declaring that he expected in the form of reimbursement.

I suppose he has forgotten my strained relationship with all objects that plug in. Technology is not my friend. Not even my workplace acquaintance. Not even my estranged step-inlaw. Genius says he will bring it home and get it ready over spring break. That I will have no problem using it. We'll see.

Oh, and he'll take that reimbursement as a deposit in his bank account, or in cash.

I will never give that boy directions to The Good Feet Store.