Thursday, April 30, 2015

He Was Pickin', and He Was Grinnin'

Last night we attended the Backroads High Top Ten Percent banquet.

It has nothing to do with earnings. At least not directly. It is recognition for the top ten percent of students in each class. Don't go all everyone-gets-a-trophy on me! Pupils who take pride in their grades and put forth more effort should be allowed one night a year to shine.

We enjoyed a fine repast of BBQ chicken, pulled pork, potato salad, baked beans and a choice of peach or cherry cobbler. What did you expect, filet mignon and escargot? It's still Backroads, after all. The best part is, the line for the buffet table always starts with the seniors, and works its way down. With The Pony being a junior this year, we were at the front of the stampede.

Let the record show that Val does not skimp on her three-sectioned Styrofoam plate. Every year, there is food left, and every year, the moderator announces that people may go back for seconds, and every year, there are a couple of pans of food left that the teachers feast on at lunch for two days. So I had a piece of chicken, a pulled pork sandwich, a tiny bit of potato salad that is nowhere near as good as my own, and a dollop of peach cobbler. Also let the record show that I squirted about half a bottle of BBQ sauce on my pulled pork, which I swear is laced with sponge fibers, and went without the baked beans, because they're messy and hard to eat with a thick-tined see-through plastic fork. No spoons this year, no knives, no rolls with tiny butter packets. Poor Pony had to eat pulled pork.

The awards were for grades 6-12. That part always starts with the little kids. It's nice to see brothers and sisters of some pupils I've already had. Nice to see how very proud the parents are of their offspring. I saw one young lady from my current class whose parents appeared awed by the whole affair. Like they were afraid they were out of place. Simple working people who had never achieved such an award for themselves. I wanted to go compliment them on what a joy their daughter is to have in class, but the crowded rows between us prevented movement.

Most of the youngsters were dressed up by school standards. Slacks instead of jeans. Collared shirts, even though many were not tucked in. Girls in dresses. This is a big deal here in Backroads, even though the event is held each year in the school cafeteria. It's kind of a throwback to Muskogee Oklahoma USA, I suppose. We are one of the poorest and smallest school districts in the conference, and other folks have felt superior to us for years. The parents know how far we've come. So do Newsweek readers, after we were named one of the top 500 school districts in the United States this year.

Sooo...after a proud evening of patting ourselves on the back, people began to trickle out. The mother and grandmother of one of The Pony's classmates stopped our boys in the hall. "Stand up against the wall. Let us get a picture of you! Now, pose like the valedictorian and salutatorian!" Let the record show that this year's valedictorian and salutatorian were a boy and a girl. For picture purposes, the boy put his arm around the girl as they smiled for the local paper. The Pony and his buddy are currently one/two in their class. So the odds are good that they will indeed be valedictorian and salutatorian. The were not about to pose as suggested.

"Did you see that?" The Mother said. "They looked at me like I was crazy." She was talking to Hick. I had just come out of the faculty women's restroom right across the hall from this impromptu picture party. Hick was standing up against the wall, smiling at her, being Hick, all friendly and garrulous.

"Yeah. I don't think they'll be posing like that next year."

And then I saw what he was doing. He was beaming at The Mother, the first time we had met her, them having sat at the table with us, and as he was talking, HE WAS DIGGING IN HIS RIGHT EAR WITH THE IGNITION KEY FOR T-HOE!

"I know you saw what he did. And you didn't even act surprised."

"Uh huh. He's a man. Nothing they do ever surprises me," replied The Mother, without missing a beat.

"What? What did I do now?" Hick was still excavating.

"That had better not be my key."

"Oh. It's not. It's the spare. My ear itched. I had to scratch it."

Thank goodness it wasn't his gonads.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


A sign, perhaps, that I should get my proposed handbasket factory up and running at triple capacity?

When I pulled onto the blacktop parking lot this morning, nothing looked different. Sure, there were the cars of the upper echelon parked in back with us peons, signaling an imminent groundskeeping surge. But that happens a couple of times a week.

No, there was no indication that when I climbed out of T-Hoe, I would find the corpses of 10,000 worms. Okay. Maybe it was not quite 10,000. But I counted 32 worms in differing stages of decomposition in a single parking space. There are 17 parking spaces in my row alone. That’s 544 deceased earthworms in just one row of the parking lot.

It’s not like we’ve had a lot of rain this week. I’m not sure what’s bringing these worms out to their death. I was not aware that worms are like lemmings. Or that there’s a Pied Piper starting small. Or that lawn-mowing makes the worms evacuate their burrows.

You have to look closely. Granted, this picture was taken AFTER school, when some of the specimens had shriveled considerable. And a couple of the ambulatory individuals may have made their way back to safety. I hope it wasn't a male and a female. That could ruin my scoop. Oh, wait. The earthworms are doin' it for themselves. Let's hope not a single one returned to the safety of the grassy knoll to propagate.

This may become one of the world’s great mysteries.

Though not as impressive as giant stone heads, the disappearance of Backroads earthworms could be discussed in the science and history books of the future. Maybe I can get some cash and a credit for this picture of some of the last of the species.

I could be a regular Jane Margaret Goodall Mead!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

When Hick Has Only One Job To Do, He Still Doesn't Do It Well. Or Even Acceptably.

I should have known better. After that debacle of trying to find his butt with both hands, and failing miserably...I still gave Hick the opportunity to prove his worth. He must think this is some kind of Everyone Gets A Trophy kind of house. That's what he gets for thinking.

Last night, I whipped up a Hick-worthy supper of Shake'N'Baked pork steaks, Maple-Cured Bacon Baked Beans out of the Bush's can (though let the record show that I heated them, and added a couple of secret ingredients), and SLAW. As an added touch, I put a layer of sliced onions on the bottom of the pan with some barbecue sauce as the pork steaks baked in their Shake'Ns. Nothing like a good caramelized onion as an accompaniment to the evening meal.

When it was finished, I did my best to clean up the kitchen so I wouldn't have to do it the next morning. I cut up some leftover pork steak for two days worth of lunches for me. Put the beans in a plastic container. Saved the caramelized onions for another meal (c'mon, it's not like they were common sliced onions laying on a kitchen counter for eternity). Washed up the pans and silverware and plates. All that was left to be done was the dumping of the pork fat rendered from the Bake'n. Those 9x13 Pyrex pans retain heat, you know.

So I asked Hick if, after cooling, he would mind dumping that fat on top of the dry dogfood our dogs seem to leave in their pans all day. He agreed. That's all he had to do. Dump the fat. Oh, and wrap up the leftover pork steaks in foil, but NOT TOO TIGHT, so the Shake'N'Bake crust didn't get all crumbled off.

I'm sure you know where this is heading. The pork steaks were wrapped together in one piece of foil, meaning that one was stacked on top of the other, letting its juices run down on the Shake'N'Baked crumblies, which is pretty much akin to holding it under running water so all the flavor washes off. Which brings us to the running water.

I found out this morning at 4:50 a.m. that Hick had not only poured the "meat juice" as he would call it, out of the 9x13 Pyrex baking dish, but that he had also rinsed that pan. Which was not in his job description. Because when I went to run the water down the drain for five minutes, waiting for it to get hot enough to plug up for dishwater...I discovered that the water would not drain from my sink.

Further investigation into the sink that worked fine in the evening, but was clogged the next morning...revealed that particles of onion, chunks of Shake'N'Bake, and blobs of congealed cooked pork juices were clogging the little openings of that bottom of the sink drain.


Technically, I gave Hick two jobs. That must be the problem. Work overload.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Once Upon An Evening Weary

Once upon a time, there was a man who could barely take care of himself. Let's call him "Yick." How Yick managed to go through life before he met his wife, let's call her "Sal," was beyooooond her. "It's a wonder that man manages to breathe in, breathe out, when I'm not here to tell him," Sal was often heard to say.

This one day, Yick came home from work at the sharp knife factory, all limbs and digits still intact, and asked Sal, "Did the doctor call?"

"I don't know," said Sal. "I just got home. That's why I'm sitting in your La-Z-Boy still wearing my work clothes, and not in the kitchen sweating over the stove and under the microwave, wearing my navy blue sweatpants with the hole in the hip, my yellow-pinstriped big shirt, black socks, and red Crocs. Is the light on the phone flashing?"

"No," said Yick. "The light isn't flashing. The doctor's office told me that if I hadn't heard anything from them by tomorrow, that I should call them about that specialist's appointment they were getting me."

"Well," said Sal, "it's not tomorrow yet. They may call then."

"Oh," said Yick. I guess I'll call them tomorrow from work and see what's going on. I'm going out to feed now."

Sal got up from Yick's La-Z-Boy once she saw that he did not desire it at the moment. She slipped into something less fashionable, and headed to the kitchen to warm some vittles in the oven, and heat up leftovers in the microwave for her son, A Horsey's, dinner. On the way, she noticed that the light on top of the living room phone was flashing like the emergency light in the women's faculty restroom when an alarm is sounding. Like a searchlight at a premier at Grauman's Chinese Theatre. Like a light from the guard tower after a night-time prison break. Like the beacon of a New England lighthouse during a nor'easter.

"It's a wonder that man manages to breathe in, breathe out when I'm not here to tell him," Sal muttered, as she contemplated chewing Yick's meat for him before serving it.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Nobody Knows the Nubble I've Seen, Nobody Knows My Horror

Sunday drivers are the bane of Val's existence. Okay. ANY drivers are the bane of Val's existence. They either tailgate her, or pull out in front and meander from one side of the road to the other at a top speed of 20 mph.

Today being Sunday, the drivers conspiring against Val were in Backroads with bells on.

Let's narrow it down to the prime offender, lest I frighten away my loyal readers with a tale as long as War, What is it Good For? War and Peace.

The Pony and I were returning from our weekly grocery-shopping trip, laden with tasty treats to be warmed in the microwave or heated in the oven. A red sedan appeared in front of us on the county road, not far past the prison. It's a long and winding road. At the point we came upon Red, the thoroughfare had unkinked, and our turn-off was in sight. No problem. We would soon be shed of this slowster. "You know, Pony, I get really irritated by drivers like this. But I'm not going to say anything. That's because I have such great self-control." The sound from the back seat might have been The Pony clearing his throat, what with the sudden cold he came down with Friday afternoon, or it might have been his eyes rolling in their sockets. You'd think his glasses would act as more of a sound buffer.

We crossed over the bridge when we came to it. I had my left-turn signal on to access our blacktop road. And then it happened. Red turned onto our blacktop road! Unfair! Not only did he neglect to use a signal, but he hit the brakes as soon as he got on that road. Which hung Val out to dry, her making her own signaled turn across the oncoming lane of traffic, with nowhere to go because Red was dragging his tires and barely moving. WHOOSH! Oncoming traffic barely missed T-Hoe's back-end.

Red sped up then. To his 20 mph. Right down the middle. An oncoming maroon 4WD truck almost sideswiped him. That made Red no nevermind. He still took his half out of the middle. Not in a straight line, of course. He swove from one shoulder to the other.

"I don't think this guy has any idea where he's going, Pony. I've never seen this car out here." Of course The Pony did not reply, caring not one whit for the emotions of others.

Red kept going our way. I lost him at the low-water bridge. It was like he hit the nitrous button in the driving game The Pony plays at Walmart while I check out. I coasted at full speed down the approach to the bridge, as I am wont to do, and popped up the ramp on the other side like Evel Knievel launching from the south rim of the Snake River Canyon on September 8, 1974.

We continued our merry way along the blacktop, past the compound of the guy we bought our long-ago rental property from, past the tree where Hick's friend Buddy's son crashed his truck, past the curve where we rescued a lady in a little purple car during a snowstorm and drove her home to the house where the headless body was later found in the cistern, up the hill where a little red sports car ran me off into the ditch (all hail 4WD!) during a different snowstorm, past the house where my sweet, sweet Juno got lost in the woods when she followed Hick on his Gator, and turned onto our gravel road across from the mailbox row.

About a fourth of a mile in, we found Red. He had parked his red sedan on the gravel road, and was standing at its back bumper taking a whiz. Yes. That's right. Even though there's a thin stand of trees between the road and the creek, Red chose not to step into them, but to stand with both feet solidly on the gravel, his pants undone, irrigating the underbrush.


"Well, now we know where that guy was going. And where his IS going. He must have come from the drive-thru liquor store."

I did not slow down. I had frozen food, you know. Red turned to look at us. I've seen more Zen-like composure on a deer in the headlights. His mouth made the silent sound of, "OH SCHICK!" At least that's what it looked like he was saying. He must have not wanted anyone to see that he had forgotten to shave. He fumbled with his special purpose, Mr. Peabody, and ran around to the driver's door. By that time, I had already blown past him at about 15 mph.


When we came upon his car on the county road, he was right outside of town. Scarcely a mile from Dairy Queen and Hardees and Subway, all of which have public restrooms and don't even question people about buying something. But no. Let's just drive out to the country, where we don't know where we're going, and find somebody's private land to relieve ourselves on. Even though there's a sign that says NO TRESPASSING. Sioux has seen it! But she hasn't seen the nub I've seen. More like a nubble. That guy really needs to keep that thing hidden.

What has been seen cannot be unseen.

You know how Michigan has that cool ad campaign that makes you want to drop what you're doing and visit Pure Michigan? Backroads has its own: Come to Backroads: One Great Big Toilet.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

K-I-TT-Y, You Ain't Got No Alibi

We are down to three cats.

You might think three cats are enough for anybody. Three cats are as good as a feast. But we were a five-cat family for many years. Occasionally, a six-cat family, but thieves and sickness took their toll. Now that we are down to three cats, it seems like we have no cats at all.

That might be because we don't like these cats.

Our best cats are gone. Genius the Cat, the big orange-striped fellow belonging to Genius the Boy, passed away last month. Snuggles the fluffy white calico was taken in by neighbors. We were too afraid of them to ask for our cat back. Which leaves only the three mailbox cats that Genius made us adopt and vaccinate and give their very special operations. But the fact remains, we don't really like these cats.

Sure, now that Genius the Cat is gone, two of these three think we will like them more. Just today, that tan-striped one, Simba, laid there on the porch, looking like Genius, making me feel all tender-hearted until he turned his big ol' pie-pan head to look at me. THEN he had the nerve to climb up on the porch rail while I was tossing fried rice to the chickens, and try to rub his fat head on my shirt as if I might pet him. Did you know turkeys really love fried rice? Oh...the cat. I just don't like him. I'll feed him if his roasting pan of cat kibble is empty. But I don't like him. Look at him up there when we still had our Snuggles, tormenting her, the bully!

Then there's Dusty, the gray calico, who likes to run under the garage door as it's closing, making it stop and go back up. I think she owes us a spring. She will sidle up to me at the side porch, acting like she wants to be petted, then squirm away if I reach for her. Good riddance!

And that leaves us with Stockings, who eats his feelings, having been referred to as a girl for the first several months of life, until we took him to be spayed, which was impossible, but we still had his nuts cut off. Oh. Pardon my French. Stockings. He has such a pretty face. He doesn't even pretend to like us. As long as he can strap on the feedbag, he's good.

Now here's the topic that really brought me to the keyboard today. A gift was left on our porch overnight. A gift that I discovered this morning, while I was feeling a bit queasy from some bug I must have picked up at the doctor's office Thursday, since I haven't been eating week-old leftovers for lunch this week. A gift.

As much as my sweet, sweet Juno loves me, I'm pretty sure she did not leave me this gift. Ann is timid with tiny things that scurry around her feet, so she's off the suspect list. I am certain that Stockings didn't exert himself to catch this treat for me, because first of all, he doesn't like me, and secondly, he would have eaten the whole thing himself. Which leaves Dusty and Simba. Uh huh. The pet-tease or the taunter.

Case closed. Simba probably still had mouse on his breath while he was trying to rub his head on my shirt.

Friday, April 24, 2015

This Is Why We Can't Have New Things

I'm sure it will come as a shock to you that I lay out The Pony's clothes every morning. Okay. So maybe it doesn't. I can't leave him to his own devices. Not since this winter when he showed up for our weekly grocery trip wearing a t-shirt, tan slacks, and his black Adidas slides. Without socks. Let the record show that there was snow on the ground, and piled higher than an elephant's eye on the Walmart parking lot.

He has been chomping at the bit to forsake the slacks for shorts. Even though it was 31 degrees here yesterday morning, I let him stick with his summer wardrobe. Today I put out his new gray shirt, and a pair of charcoal-gray-and-white plaid shorts. And SOCKS to wear in his shoes. It's not creepy, like laying them across the foot of his bed while he sleeps. I dig them out of the dryer and drape them on the back of the couch where he can grab them on his way to brush his teeth just before we leave.

This afternoon, I came back from parking lot duty to find him sitting in my classroom facing the far wall, at one of the two desks where I keep the box of Puffs With Lotion that one class uses up every week, and the current day's assignments. His back was to me as he fiddled with his phone, most likely texting his paramour. I went about my business, getting things ready for Monday, and tying up loose ends like late assignments turned in yesterday when I was absent.

"Oh, Mom. I have chocolate ice cream all over my shirt. I just wanted you to know that I didn't do it."

I don't know why he made a big deal about confessing that it wasn't HIM who made the stain. It's not like I buy him designer clothing. It was a knit shirt off the rack from Walmart. Like he has a preference for slacks, The Pony has a preference for lightweight knit shirts with no pocket and a button placket that he fastens all the way to the top.

The mystery remained as to how this stain happened. I don't pack chocolate ice cream in The Pony's lunch. The cafeteria certainly doesn't serve chocolate ice cream. The Pony is not a slopper. His brother Genius was always getting foodstuffs all over himself. He was like Pigpen with dirt. There was generally a cloud of crumbs or stains swirling around him. The minute he'd get up out of T-Hoe's shotgun seat, a pile of fries would appear. "Hey! Where did THOSE come from?" Yeah. He was totally oblivious. I used to accuse him of having a hole in his chin, until he fell flat on his face swinging on his arms between the kitchen counter and cutting block, and put his bottom teeth through his lip, leaving a saliva-leaking second mouth.

I knew better than to interrogate The Pony. He talks when he's good and ready. Forcing the issue results in monosyllabic curt responses.

"Let's see. Oh. Well. It will wash."

"It wasn't my fault. Twin was eating chocolate ice cream, and threw his spoon at the trash can, and missed."

My curiosity was rising. Which twin? Where did he get the ice cream? I counted to ten.

"It hit me and got all over the front of my shirt."

Yes. From the collar, diagonal to the button placket, was a swath of dark, interconnected stain blobs. Quite noticeable on a light gray shirt. Since The Pony was talking, I jumped in.

"Did you tell him that was a new shirt?"


"It's not a big deal. It will come out. Where did he get the ice cream?"

"Loverboy had it. He shared it with us. Twin 2 was done and threw away his spoon."

Let the record show that I know Twin 2. I had Twin 2 in class. And Twin 2 doesn't have a mean bone in his body. He's a well-mannered boy, the son of two teachers from two other school districts.

"So Loverboy brought ice cream for his lunch."

"No! It was left over from his Chem II experiment! They are trying to see if they can make Dippin' Dots with dry ice. They can't. It came out in big blobs. But he had some ice cream left."

"Oh, and he brought it to the cafeteria."

"No! We weren't in the cafeteria! I was in Trig."

"Wait. You got ice cream all over you in Trig?"

"It wasn't my fault. I told you that."

"I MEAN...what were you doing with ice cream in Trig?"

"It's after Chem II. And the ice cream was left over, and Miss Cardiac said we could have it."

"So Twin 2 threw his spoon at the wastebasket, and you were in the way."

"No! I wasn't in the way!"

"Then how did it hit you?"

"That's what I'M trying to figure out!"

"So you were standing by the wastebasket."

"No! I was standing in front of Miss Cardiac's desk, talking to her."

"And the wastebasket is..."

"Way over at the END of her desk! Look. I was standing HERE, and the wastebasket was over HERE, and Twin threw it from HERE. How is that so hard for you to understand?"

"Well, I'm also trying to understand how the stain is on the front of your shirt, if Twin 2 was behind you."

"No! He wasn't behind me, he was beside me."

"How could that spoon curve and hit you in the chest on the way to the wastebasket?"

"It's a SPOON! It doesn't fly straight."

Sometimes it's smarter NOT to interrogate The Pony. This was one of those times.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Babes Got Your Nose!

Yesterday morning I was texting with my sister the ex-mayor's wife before school started, and she proclaimed that she had to stop, as she was hitting the road for her nose surgery.


"You didn't tell me you were having a nose job! Maybe now people will think YOU are the younger sister!"

"I thought I told you. I have a skin cancer that they're cutting off."

Well, ain't that a fine how-do-you-do-goodbye-for-now? After stopping by there once a week, and bonding over her granddaughter Babes opening up T-Hoe to Main Street riff-raff while we were dividing Mom's would think Sis could have told me something of this nature. So then I was worried about her all day, about how much of her nose they might lop off, and worried about Hick, who took the day off for a urologist's appointment, about how much of his--wait. I don't think any lopping-off goes on at the urologist's office.

I knew Sis had a thingy on the end of her nose. The bulbous part. Not that she looks like W. C. Fields or anything. At the hospital, and at the funeral home, I saw that she had a bump there. "Oh, that's too bad," I thought, "that Sis has a pimple right there on the end of her nose from crying in grief and blowing her nose too much." Shortly thereafter, she went to the dermatologist, because that thing kept sitting there on the end of her nose, and if she scratched it or just scrubbed her face, it would start to bleed. On one visit to her immaculately-drivewayed house, Sis had a bunch of spots all over her face and arms and neck, like the black measles. "Oh, the dermatologist burned off a bunch of precancerous lesions." You'd think that would have been her opportunity to tell me of her nose's diagnosis.

I know that something of this sort would bother Sis. She's the one who told me, after my thyroid mostly-removal, "You can always wear a scarf. Or a button-up shirt. Or cover it with makeup." Yeah. That's not happening. I yam what I yam, as a wise, overly-developed-forearm sailor once said. It doesn't matter to me if people think I'm some kind of Frankenstein's monster, or that I've had a head transplant. It's not like I'm walking the runaway in Milan.

After school, I sent her a text asking how she was doing, and what kind of cancer it was.

"It's the most common kind: basal cell carcinoma. It doesn't spread or reoccur, but it eats away at your flesh. The plan was to shave it off, then send it to the lab while I waited about an hour to see if they got it all, then if not, shave some more, wait an hour, and so on. I got lucky, because after the first shave, it was all out. The doctor said it couldn't have been in a worse place. That if it had been on the bridge of my nose, or on the rim of the nostril, there would be something firm under it in case I needed a skin graft from behind my ear. But right now I don't. I just have a big hole in the end of my nose, which will heal, and may, at the worst, be slightly discolored."

"That's good to hear. Not your flesh being eaten way part. But the rest."

"Yes. I guess I will be homebound for a while. I have a big clown nose bandage that I'm supposed to take off tomorrow, and paint on a liquid kind of bandage."

"I hope Babes doesn't get ahold of it!"

"After the surgery, we were planning to have lunch at a deli that we like, but with this big clown nose, I didn't want to go in. So we picked up food and ate in the car. Then on the way home, I had to go to the bathroom. I couldn't hold it anymore. We couldn't just pull over, we were on the highway! So the ex-mayor said he would stop at Dairy Queen. I didn't want to go in, but he said, 'Just put on your sunglasses. Nobody here knows you.' After I was done and washing my hands, I looked in the mirror. I'm not sure that going in was such a good idea. They probably thought I was going to rob the place, with my giant sunglasses covering my face, and this ridiculous clown nose."

"I hope none of them ever saw your gun-running photos that the ex-mayor texted to me but I never received! They're floating around out there somewhere."

"Yeah. And they probably have a surveillance camera, and my picture will be on the news. 'Have you seen this woman?'"

"Well. At least your getaway car was clean."

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Maybe the Ol' Gal Was Onto Something

Remember how my mom was always annoyed that her neighbor across the road was watching her? I thought she was just being cantankerous. Overly-suspicious. Casting aspersions because the old neighbors that she liked had passed on, and in her mind, nobody could replace them.

Maybe, just maybe, Mom was right.

This afternoon, Hick decided to load his riding lawn mower on his trailer, and take it to town to mow Mom's yard. It has been growing like a weed, ha ha, and he didn't have time until now. He had a doctor's appointment, and wanted The Pony to help him mow afterwards. I got stuck at school (but not in a head-under-the-faucet-of-the-women's-faculty-restroom-sink kind of way) and didn't leave until 4:00. So I took The Pony out to Mom's to drop him off.

Hick had just arrived. His 1999 Ford F250 Long Bed Crew Cab was already parked in the driveway, the long, long trailer attached, and the metal ramps let down for offloading the riding mower. Hick was on his first pass of the yard, up along the mailbox. I pulled into the driveway (nyah nyah nyah, Mom!) and let out The Pony. Hick stopped to talk when he saw me.

No sooner had I rolled down the window than a man appeared in my side mirror. He reached out his hand to Hick. Men are like that. See? No weapon. Shake my hand so I can commence to stealing you blind by distracting you.

"How are you doing? For the past three or four weeks, my wife and I have been watching the house, expecting your mom to come out. It seems like she should be here, working in the yard. Have you decided what you're going to do with the house?"

Okay. I don't mind him coming over. Even though it seems a bit creepy that he's been watching the house. Just like he did every day when I lived here! I hear my mom saying. Now maybe you'll believe me! Yeah. Maybe I will. It's really none of this guy's business WHAT we're going to do with the house. Hick told him to ask me, because I had a half interest in it.

What did he think, that we would offer him a tour? Or quote him a price? You just don't know about some people. He's a former city dweller. So I suppose they're just more forward in their manner of speaking. Down here, we might say, "That would make a good house for an older couple." Or "My son would love to have a place like this." Just some way to broach the subject, without being nosy. So I could mention that I might want to sell it, or declare that I am not ready to give up a part of my memories yet.

The guy didn't stay long. I left The Pony there with Hick. All the way home, I imagined the sheer curtains of that guy's house rippling as if somebody was behind them...watching.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Love Song of Val Near Retirement

Let us go then, you and I,
In the morning when the first shrill bell is nigh
Like a student lulled to sleep upon a desktop;
Let us go, through lunch time's swift-deserted halls,
The caterwauling bawls
Of teachers striving to be heard at all
Ring out for validation from their peers,
In hopes that they can make it 30 years.
Halls that hold us like a warden without guilt,
Which society has built.
No longer the profession that it once was,
Reviled rather than valued,
Another target to be sued.

In the class the children come and go
Talking of hardships, tales of woe.

For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
Have measured out my life, not with coffee spoons;
But with duty days I count each brand new fall
The parking lot, the games, and the lunch room.
My life can now resume.
Heh, heh. Wasn't THAT uplifting? It's a parody, people! A parody! But let the record show: 
Mrs.Thevictorian has only five duty days left this year!
Sure, there's that pesky next year looming on the horizon. But I'm a short-timer now.
The finish line is in sight.   

Monday, April 20, 2015

Oops! He's Done It Again.

I would think our canine fleabags would be upset with Hick, since he has been usurping their cozy shelters of late. That man simply cannot stay out of the doghouse.

You'd think he might have learned by now. It's not for lack of Val telling him what to do. I suppose he simply has selective hearing. I know I've told him. I know YOU know I've told him. I daresay I could give you a quiz on the rules of Val's house, and you would all pass with flying colors. Except maybe Joe H, because he seems to be a contrarian sometimes. Not that there's anything wrong with that if you don't live in my house. I won't even call him that name his wife is so fond of.

Sunday was rainy and cool here in Backroads. I brewed up a cauldron of ham and beans. Don't think it was easy for me. I'm pretty much a warm-in-the-oven or heat-in-the-microwave cook. According to Hick. Uh huh. I know I am. But what is he? Yeah. I guess I told HIM if he ever figures out how to read my supersecret blog.

Great Northerns, they were. Using the second ham left over from Easter. A few plops of minced garlic, several generous splashes of Vlasic Mild Banana Pepper Rings juice, a sustained grinding of fresh black pepper, all simmered to a desirable thickness, served with a side of Jiffy Corn Muffins and I Can't Believe It's Not Butter. Yeah. I'm not getting my cooking show on the Food Network any time soon, am I?

Because I'm a bit of a gourmet, I prefer some sliced pepper rings in my bowl of cornbread/bean mush. Hick wanted only extra pepper juice, but said if I was slicing an onion, he would have some. So of course I sliced an onion. I left it on a plate on the kitchen counter for Hick to feed upon when he returned from his animal duties. We never have a sit-down meal. You never know when Hick is going to announce that he's off to Lowe's for some vital part for some gadget he broke.

Much later in the evening, near the stroke of midnight, I ascended the stairs from my dark basement lair. At the top, an odor struck me. I followed the near-invisible plume of scent, like in a cartoon featuring Pepe Le Pew, and arrived in the kitchen. All food had been cleared from the counter. I supposed that Hick had learned his lesson about not leaving onion slices there overnight. I reached for the door handle of Frig II to make sure that the bean pot was indeed stored away for leftovers.


Not the pot of beans. The onion smell. Whew! So strong. But I didn't see any onions. I shoved a few items around on the top shelf. And there it was. A baggie full of leftover sliced onions. Who does that? Why would you save sliced onions? They stink! And they lose their flavor. I don't think the price of one onion is going to send Thevictorians to the poorhouse. But if it does, I would totally get a kid like Oliver Twist to be the scapegoat and ask for more gruel.

I grabbed that offensive food bundle and took it out on the back porch and shook those onions out onto the ground below. Then I zipped the lock on that baggie and stuffed it down in the trash.

I know I have told Hick that we don't save sliced onions.

Of course, after a few hours in the bed beside Hick, I was wishing for that onion smell again.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Tale of Two Minis

Only last summer, I was lamenting to my best ol' ex-teaching buddy Mabel about the quality of Blizzard that is dispensed at the Backroads Dairy Queen. What? You think we talk shop? Nope. We have actual lives. We don't live at school. Especially Mabel. Now.

My issue with the Blizzard was the consistency. Ice cream should not run faster than Usain Bolt. Mabel said the workers must turn that Blizzard upside down as they hand it to you. "The not-heaven, you say!" But Mabel insisted that was their policy. I did not think so. I had never seen a DQ worker turn a Blizzard upside down. That would have been pure folly, just asking for trouble, like turning a urine specimen bottle upside down. So I boycotted DQ for a while. Okay. You wouldn't actually call it boycotting, because I still went there to get chicken strips for The Pony. But I did not partake of their liquified frozen treats. Until Friday.

Val is a TV watcher, you know. And I could barely click a channel recently without seeing a DQ commercial promoting Blizzards, and declaring that the worker would turn your Blizzard upside down when handing it to you, or the next one was free! Part of me wanted to run out and get a Blizzard, just to see that ersatz ice cream plop out onto the pavement. Then I figured that our local franchise would have some excuse not to do the flip.

Every morning on the way to work, that DQ sign mocks us. The big sign out front by the stop light that advertises the Blizzard of the Month. It's impossible not to notice, especially after we finish counting the number of cars waiting in line at the window of the drive-thru liquor store. This month the Blizzard is Salted Caramel Truffle. So for 17 days, I'd been reading that sign. And on Friday afternoon, after picking up The Pony's corsage for his prom date, we stopped. The Pony is not an adventurous creature. He only wanted a shake. But I ordered the mini Salted Caramel Truffle Blizzard.

Well. Taped to the drive-thru speaker was a page of 8" x 11" paper in a clear plastic sleeve with a list of limitations (in large font) that make the "next one free" offer null and void. Apparently, you can't have your next Blizzard free if you alter it in some way, like asking for chocolate ice cream in place of vanilla, or asking for different ingredients to be substituted, or ordering more than one Blizzard per car. Heh heh. Because everybody knows that chocolate ice cream weighs more than vanilla, of course. I was not so concerned with getting a future Blizzard free, because if one is runny enough to plop out of the cup, then why would I want another one? So I substituted my vanilla for chocolate, and pulled around.

The girl took my money and handed me The Pony's chocolate shake. Then she grabbed my mini Salted Caramel Truffle and FLIPPED IT OVER and back before handing it out the window! I was flabbergasted. I had violated the first rule of Blizzard Flip, and still that little gal flipped my Blizzard.

We pulled around to the parking lot and into a slot so I could eat my mini. "Look, Pony! It's actually frozen. Not soupy. And look at the side of the cup...frozen blobs of chocolate ice cream. I bet they put this in a blast chiller, like on Cutthroat Kitchen, while I was in line. No way that ice cream on the outside would freeze to the cardboard."

"Technically, Cutthroat Kitchen uses an anti griddle. I think it's Chopped that uses the blast chiller."

"Okay. Whatever. But the main thing is that they still turned my Blizzard upside down, and it was actually frozen, like ice cream!"

Since that experience worked out so well, I went back today, after taking The Pony to return his tux at 2:00. Let the record show that neither of us had lunch, and he wanted a chicken strip basket. Of course I got a Blizzard. Val does not live on Mystery PEEPS alone.

I ordered my Blizzard exactly like I did on Friday. The girl took my money and shoved my Blizzard out the window. No flipping. That thing was as thin as the vegetable beef soup served in the Backroads High cafeteria.

Of course I'll have to go back a third time to figure out what is the norm. It's scientific research.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Peepers Keepers!

Do you know what's more unpopular than Carrie at the prom?

These things:

It's true! I was in Walmart on Thursday, and they had a bin of these right by the door, in that seasonal stuff that won't sell, that they're trying to push at a deep discount just to get it out of the store. Of course I bought some! There were ten packages, and I took four. That's because I LOVE PEEPS!

"But Val," you say. "How do you know you love THESE PEEPS, when you don't even know what flavor they are?" Flavor? Who cares what flavor? Not Val. They're PEEPS, by cracky! I thought I'd seen the end of them until at least Halloween. You know. When Walmart starts putting out their Christmas stuff.

Last night I ripped open a package and sampled them. I think I showed amazing restraint, actually, what with buying them before noon on Thursday, and waiting until Friday night during Amazing Race to open them. Now, as for the flavor...I'm not sure. They smelled really familiar. I took a whiff, and said to myself, "Oh. I know what that is." But my nose and tongue couldn't quite put their finger on it. I'm pretty sure it was either sour green apple, or angel food cake.

Anyhoo...I've got me some PEEPS. Doesn't matter if they're two weeks past their official holiday. Doesn't matter if they were cooling their beady eyes in a bargain bin. Doesn't matter that they're almost as pale as Sissy Spacek.

Even Carrie got a date for the prom.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Out of the Hands of Babes

Yesterday I had to miss work for some lab tests before my doctor’s appointment next week. That’s what 95 sick days are for. I get 10 more next year, but the catch is, I can’t accumulate more than 100. So it’s use ‘em or lose ‘em, and they’re part of my contract, so…I no longer try to go all day without eating or drinking so I can provide my blood sample after a full day of work.

The bloodletting was fairly uneventful, except that the phlebotomist must have had a fight with her husband before work, because she was not the most congenial of phlebotomists. Oh, she was technically proficient, but though her mouth said, “Have a nice day,” her eyes did not.

From there I headed to do the weekly shopping, because I will be without my helper Pony on Saturday due to a scholar bowl tournament and prom, and he will be one tired little Pony on Sunday. After shopping it was back home to spend 20 minutes carrying stuff in and putting it away. Then I had to do the dishes, grab some lunch, and head back to town to meet my sister the ex-mayor’s wife at two financial establishments to hash out our inheritance. Sometimes, a day at work is more relaxing than a day off.

Sis had her grandbaby along for the meetings. Babes is 15 months old now, a blonde cherub with a jolly good nature who is into everything. She was quite well-behaved for someone so sorely lacking in social skills. It was at Edward D. Jones that the incident occurred.

It was nearing naptime, and our little energizer bunny was slowing down. She sat on Sis’s knee, content to pound the table and important papers with a free ink pen that she had not yet thought to click open. After 10 minutes, Babes reached her arms plaintively toward me. I was flattered, not being around her much, and her at the age where the appearance of the Edward D Jones man around the corner had sent her scurrying behind Sis, with a look of apprehension clouding her blue-eyed countenance. Flattered, until Sis told Ed, “She does that all the time. Walmart…Schnucks…you name it. She walks away from me and reaches up for complete strangers to hold her.” Ahem.

So I put Babes on my knee. She was very good. She surveyed my area of the long conference table to see what items might be molested. I pushed my pen out of reach, and pulled my keys out of my purse. I have one with a red plastic guard around it that lights up when you push a black button. Babes was entranced. She played with it a good long time, trying to figure out where the light was coming from, and sorting through the various lengths and colors of keys, and turning the clicker over to inspect it. I had to sign some papers, so I passed her back to Sis.

“Oh, you don’t want to let her play with your keys! I did that a couple weeks ago at the credit union. Babes was laughing and pushing them back and for under the glass partition with the lady who was friends with Mom. We heard a beeper going off outside. I said, ‘Oh, sounds like an alarm is going off.’ When we went out, I found out it was my car alarm!”

“That clicker doesn’t even work for me. The battery is low. I keep meaning to switch it out with the one on Hick’s key. He only uses it when he takes my car to get perfectly good tires fixed. I have to push it a bunch of times to lock or unlock the car.”

We got our instructions on what to expect as the assets were divided. Ed told us he could only put our names on the accounts until after Mom’s assets were assigned to us. He said we could, however, put someone else on the account to transfer on death, in case anything happened in the meantime. I started giving Ed Hick’s information.

“Wait a minute! You mean you’re not putting ME on there?” asked Sis. She was joking. I think.

“No. Because what’s to stop you from backing over me as we leave this office?”

“Oh, come on. I’m not THAT bad a driver.”

“I never said it would be an accident. Maybe you’re a really GOOD driver.”

Sis signed her papers. Let the record show that she did not put me on her account to transfer on death.

We wrapped up our paperwork and headed out. As I started to open the glass-paneled door, I saw it.


Right there on Main Street. Where cars had been passing within inches for the last hour.

“Oh no!” Sis, with Babes on her hip, started emitting great belly-laughs. “I TOLD you not to let her play with your keys!”

“I can’t believe it. I can never get the back hatch to open with that thing. Every now and then The Pony can make it work. What is Babes, some kind of evil genius? Her powers are extraordinary!”

“Was there anything in it?”

“Just my coat. Three umbrellas. A long ice scraper. A box with some books.”

“It looks like it’s all here. Close it.”

“I can’t get this clicker to work.”

“Isn’t there a button inside? Ours has a button.”

“Right there. On the hatch.”

“It’s not working.”

“WHAT? Now I can’t get my hatch closed?” I, too, tried the button on the hatch. Nope.

“Here. Just close it manually.” Sis slammed down the hatch. A puff of dust swirled up around her head as it latched. “NO! Your car is SO dirty!”

“Heh, heh. It IS kind of dirty. I live on a gravel road, you know. At least you got it closed. I was afraid Babes had really broken my car.”

“Look at you! You probably hit something before you went in, and opened your hatch, and now you want to blame this sweet baby! Ha ha ha ha ha!”

“Yeah, right.”

Sometimes Sis can be slightly amusing.

The scene, and the crime:

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Family Tuxter

Hey, blog buddies, do you know what time it is?


Somebody around the old homestead is pretty excited. And it's not Hick and it's not Val. To say The Pony is looking forward to prom would be an understatement.

Is that the smile of a Pony who is simply looking forward to prom? No. Let the record show that The Pony is not one to exhibit great emotion. I'm surprised his feet are even touching the ground.

Lest you think I'm a really bad picture-taker...I AM! But not THAT bad. I had to crop The Pony's identity out of the photo. We're deep in the Blogger Protection Program, you know.

Here's another pic, showing his vest in all its coral glory. That's the color his date requested, as her dress contains a good deal of that hue. This photo was taken with The Pony's phone, so the tint is a bit different.

The tux workers rushed The Pony forthwith, and cinched his vest a mite tighter. He's a slender fellow. He reminds me of the banker in Monopoly in this photo.

So here's a little tale from the tuxedo rental shop, which is kind of like wedding and prom headquarters for this area. We arrived as one of The Pony's cronies was picking up his tux, and another was ordering a tux for next weekend for his girlfriend's school prom. There was another prom dude from a neighboring school district, and a kid trying on wedding party attire which included suspenders.

The Pony came out of the dressing room fairly quickly compared to his cohorts, only the wedding boy exiting faster, and he was not wearing a jacket, and said it was his fourth tux experience. The crony took so long that his mother called out to ask if he was okay. He was. The other dude held the record for longest try-on. In fact, The Pony was back in his cubicle getting dressed when Slow Dude finally came out for appraisal.

Slow Dude did not have family waiting. It was just Val, Crony, Crony's Mom, Crony's elementary-school sister, three tux shop gals, and Wedding Boy who witnessed his grand entrance. Slow Dude opened his louvered door and strode out like a king, thumbs hooked in the tiny pockets of his golden vest, WHICH HE HAD ON OVER HIS JACKET!

Yep. Slow Dude was wearing the vest over the jacket. I smiled. Crony did a double-take. Crony's Mom let out a giggle. Crony's Sister gaped in shock. The three tux gals ripped out big snorts of laughter. Wedding Boy said, "Dude."

"Oh, we don't mean to laugh at you! The vest goes UNDER the jacket." The tux shop gals are really nice.

"WHAT?" Yeah. Slow Dude could not believe it. He thought they were pulling his leg. "UNDER the jacket? WHY?"

When I asked The Pony if he heard what happened, he said he did not. After I explained, he commented, "Even I know THAT!"