Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Backroads Version of Catch and Not-Quite Release

Hot off the press! The verdict is IN! Tuesday morning, I saw in the local online paper that my jury case was resolved. Are you ready for this?


According to the hometown Backroads news, a jury deliberated LESS THAN AN HOUR before returning that verdict. Not guilty of two counts of assault on a law enforcement officer. Not many details, but apparently OCE is serving seven years for violation of his probation, which he got for possessing chemicals to make meth, a lab with such capabilities having been found in his self-owned business in 2011.

Also, in their search, police found in OCE's home: three handguns, two rifles and a shotgun. All replica models. Or "which appeared to be real until closer examination." Police also found four bottles of vodka and a bottle of whiskey. So...either toy guns are a violation of probation, or OCE was actually sent to the big house for liking his liquor. Against the rules of probation, you know. But seven years? I suppose that was the original sentence for the meth chemicals? And his violation caused him to serve the time?

Maybe that brandishing got the lawmen all riled up, and they threw the book at him.

I bet OLD CRAZY EYES really needs a drink right about now. At least he didn't have any more years added to his sentence for the assault.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Boy Who Really Didn't Care About People

I might have mentioned how The Pony and I do the shopping every Sunday morning. And how The Pony doesn't really care about people. It's right there, in the cold hard facts of his ACT interest inventory, where he answered NO to the question, "Would you like to help people after a tornado or natural disaster?"

We left Walmart after 15 minutes of shopping and 15 minutes of waiting in line. The Pony said he would like to pick up McDonalds for lunch on our way home. I pointed T-Hoe in that direction. It's right by Walmart.

Sitting at the corner where cars come out of McDonalds onto the Walmart road was a man in camouflage pants and a dark blue t-shirt and a camo cap. He had a large piece of cardboard propped beside him. Let the record show that it's the first time I have seen someone doing this at this location. And the only other time was several years ago, when a burly guy at the stoplight had a sign that his car broke down and he was trying to get to some other state.

"Look, Pony. He's got a sign. He's probably working for food. Look back and read it as I turn in."

"Uh huh. Homeless. Will work for food. He must have worked, because he's eating something. It looks like fries. And he's got a soda. I guess someone gave him their food when they drove by."

I pulled onto the lot and into the drive-thru lane that wrapped around the building.

"If I had my money with me, I would give him twenty dollars."

"We can give him something as we leave. Some people set up like that and only want money. They rake it in. It's like their job, begging. They get mad if you offer them food. But that guy was actually eating."

"He might be that guy who had the tent behind that tree. The one by the natural gas company down there. By the bridge."

"You never know. People live under the bridge. Sometimes we see them walking along this stretch of road."

"I have my other billfold here! The one with my permit. Aw. The biggest bill I have is a ten."

"If you really want to give him money, I'll pay for your food with this five and some change. Then I'll have this ten left, and the rest of that change. You'll have to give it to him. I can't stop for long on that hill getting out."


"If you want him to have the money, you'll have to do it. Just sit over that on that folded-down seat and stick your hand out the window. Say, 'Hey, bud. I've got something for you.' You can't change your mind. You'll get his hopes up if you chicken out."

"Mmmmm...I don't know. Look. He's walking down to throw away his cup."

"At least he's not a litterer. Maybe he's leaving. No. He sat back down on that backpack."

We were at the pick-up window now.

"I'll do it. Let me set this food down." The Pony unbuckled his seat belt and slid from his back-seat lair behind me over to the folded-down passenger seat. "Remember, this window only goes halfway down."

"I know. You can get your hand out."

I pulled up the exit. Put on the brake right across from the homeless guy.

"Hello? I have something for you." The Pony stretched out his arm, holding two tens and a handful of change. "Here's twenty dollars and some change."

The homeless guy stood up. His face was like weathered leather, with some lighter-colored beard scraggle. He was no spring chicken. "Thank you. God bless you. God bless you." He waved and went back to his backpack seat.

The Pony caught my eye in the mirror. "That makes me feel good."

There may be hope for him yet.

Monday, September 28, 2015

So Gray the Clothes, So Gray the Evidence

I did not get selected for jury, despite dutifully sitting through four hours of preliminaries. I had a high number, you know. Which is a good thing. Or is it?

This case was much more interesting than the one I served on years ago. Nobody's writin' home about the eminent domain monetary awards case. Okay. I wrote about it anyway. But that's just me. I like to keep the public informed of legal procedures, you know. I'm a giver like that.

While the attorneys were in chambers counting out their picks, and my pew-mates scattered for the one-seater toilet, the spread of water and coffee in the juror hospitality room, and the far reaches of the courtroom to chat with long-lost relatives, I remained seated and thought about this trial.

In the beginning, when Client walked in wearing his prison grays, I assumed that he must have attacked some corrections officers. Why else would he have two counts of assault? Many years ago, I was assaulted by a student when I taught the at-risk classes. Just one punch. Just a scrawny 8th-grader who did not like me reminding him that his math teacher said his work was not turned in, even though he said it was. Did I press charges? No. Could I have? Yes. I didn't even make him serve the maximum school penalty (yes, I was asked for my input on his consequences). Still, I would have taken the side of the corrections officers if this was Client's alleged crime.

Then we were told that Client had served time for a drug charge, and was in his own home when a parole officer and police officer entered unannounced. They are allowed to make surprise visits. He allegedly waved a gun around. So I though maybe they kicked in the door in the middle of the night, and Client was startled and scared and trying to protect himself. Even though I know people on parole are not allowed to have weapons.

Then we were told that the officers knocked, and were let in. That they carried weapons, but did not draw them. AND we were told that the gun was an Airsoft toy. Even though it did not have the red tip that signifies it's not real. There I was, in a quandary. Can a parolee have a toy gun? Alter it so it looks real? If the officers were really afraid that they were going to be shot, why didn't they draw their weapons? Client was lucky they didn't blow him away.

The defense attorney had asked if we would take the word of a parole officer over the word of anyone else. I was not sure on this one. Probably, I would have. I would take the word of a teacher over a student. Both have jobs that many people would not want. They don't do it for the money or the glory. They are often pretty unpopular with society. They do this job because they believe in it. Take their role seriously. Sure, there are bad apples. But the majority, I believe, want to do what's right. Not set up somebody to take a fall.

I don't know how much of Client's appearance was a show directed by his attorney. After several minutes, I recognized that his prison grays were actually county jail grays. There's a subtle difference that you might not recognize if you hadn't driven past the prison work details all summer, or interviewed or visited one of the three state prisons in this area. Therein lies the problem. Why was Client dressed in jailhouse clothes?

You would think that Dr. Leary would not have wanted his Client to appear in jailhouse clothes. That might taint him with criminal status. Apparently Client could not make bail, so he was held in the county jail until his trial. Which begs the question, did Client not have one single family member or friend who could bring him clothes for his trial? Could Dr. Leary not send his assistant to Goodwill for a pair of slacks, a shirt, and a tie? Something was up with the garb. Were we supposed to feel sorry for Client, wearing his jailhouse clothes?

Was Client told to act feeble and shaky and nervous? That's how he appeared, until I was caught in the beam of his CRAZY EYES.

I'm not sure about this case. I would have to know what a parolee is allowed to have in his home where a toy gun is concerned. And hear the testimony of the officers. And the testimony of Client. Even though Dr. Leary asked how we would feel if Client did not take the stand.

Too many unanswered questions. I can't wait to read about the results in the paper.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

If You Didn't Know Better, You Might Assume That Each of Us Was a Gambler Down in Georgia, the Father of a Ramblin' Man

When we last convened, Val had just been impaled by the crazy-eyed gaze of Client, a mere ten feet away, with only a table and 30-inch high wooden railing  separating them.

I quickly looked away. WTF? Was I the only one who saw that? I turned my attention back to the questioning.

Each attorney was allowed to address the jurors. As prosecutor, Mr. FBI had gone first. Unless you've been privy (heh, heh, I said PRIVY!) to courtroom proceedings, you may not understand how dry and unstimulating this can be. Mr. FBI started by asking if any of us potential jurors knew him. Show of hands. Then he asked each one, after stating their number and name, not HOW they knew him, but if they could set aside their relationship with him. If they could be fair and impartial. For each. And every. Juror who raised a hand. Then Mr. FBI asked if any of us knew his assistant. Same questions. For each. And every. Juror who raised a hand. From there it went to the prosecutor's office. Any dealings with them? Could we put that aside? Could we be fair and impartial? One juror answered no. There was a flurry of name-scratching on the part of both attorneys. Let the record show that with 80 potential jurors, this was a lengthy process. I swear, one lady answered yes to every inquiry.

Then Dr. Leary had his turn. He began by looking at my pew and the one behind me. "Hello there. You are what we call THE OTHER JURORS. Let me just tell you, you have no chance of being chosen. We will select our jurors, and eliminate the ones we don't want, and then pick the first twelve. In fact, I am only going to pursue questioning up to number 40. The rest would be a waste of time."

"First of all, I would like to thank Mr. FBI for the fact that I now know all of the social relationships of the entire population of Backroads County. Now. Do any of you know me? I don't see any hands. Perhaps some of you know my client, Mr. Client. He used to run a business in the area, Backroads Roadstars. How many of you know him? Again, I see no hands. Let me explain to you that my client has been accused of two counts of assault, although he never touched anybody. He has been accused of waving a replica gun at a parole officer and a police officer. Those professionals carry weapons, yet they never drew their weapons on my client. In fact, they will tell you that my client, at the time he was holding the replica weapon, was heard to say, 'This thing doesn't even work.' How many of you would say my client was still guilty of assault, if he was not proven to have acted recklessly, but the officers were still afraid? Even though they did not draw their weapons?"

At that point, Mr. FBI objected that this was not the time to try the case. His objection was sustained. Dr. Leary argued about Mr. FBI's previous line of questioning. Both attorneys were told to approach the bench. Judge Missy Miss climbed down from her lofty perch to consult. She cautioned Dr. Leary to speak more quietly. This was one of several objections, sustainings, and bench conferences, one of which was taken to chambers due to volume and excitement on the part of Dr. Leary.

Dr. Leary returned to pursue his questions, in a barely different manner. As he was questioning the hand-raisers, he got to that lady who had seemingly raised her hand to every question up to now. "You've had enough opportunities to talk, Mrs. Handraiser. I think we have enough information from you."

And so it went. The jurors created a hubbub when one asked it the replica gun was a reproduction of an antique, or a toy like an Airsoft gun. Dr. Leary stated that it was an Airsoft. Then the question arose as to whether it had the red tip that identifies it as a toy. No. It did not have the red tip. Much murmuring ensued. Judge Missy Miss rebuked us. Didn't we understand that the stenographer had to record EVERYTHING in the courtroom? And she could not record multiple conversations. So we shut up. Not that Val had even parted her lips. Or moved her eyes off of Dr. Leary.

Then Dr. Leary asked how many of us had previously had a gun pointed at us. Over 20 hands shot up. I then glanced at my pew-mates, being careful not to let my gaze stray in the direction of Ol' Crazy Eyes. We all, hands down, had a look like "WTF?" Only in Backroads, I suppose, would you find a plethora of potential jurors who have been on the business end of a gun.

Dr. Leary finished his juror questions, then the official parties retired to chambers. Client was led out of the courtroom to a conference room. I breathed a sigh of relief.

The way I remember from my last jury trial, both lawyers pick the jurors they want. Then they go through the list with the judge. Each of them gets a certain amount of strikes, or jurors they can exclude that are wanted by the other attorney. After that, starting with #1, the first 12 non-strikeout jurors are picked.

While we waited about an hour for that grand announcement, I had time to organize my thoughts on Client and his trial.

Tomorrow I'll reveal those thoughts, in the conclusion of our continuing series on Backroads Justice.

Here's the reference for the title. I'm sure SOMEBODY will ask!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Two Eyes Forward and Two Eyes Back

We left Val sitting at the middle end of her front-row pew in the third-floor courtroom, watching the "judge" in her Peg Bundy dress ascend to the court stenographer's chair.

The actual judge was a slip of a thing, a miniature woman in a black robe who commanded control of the courtroom. We rose and sat. Val herself was happy for Judge Missy Miss to make her appearance. Like a quiet kid in a rowdy classroom when the teacher has left without assigning somebody to take down names. Because, you see, the courtroom had been unattended, except for one bailiff with us, and one bailiff in chambers, and that armed deputy.

Perhaps I mentioned that my seat was on the front row, within spitting distance of even a novice spitter from the table where the defense attorney would sit. Not that I was afraid of the defense attorney. He looked kind of like Dr. Timothy Leary, in a fancy suit with curly hair. He puttered around with his assistant before sending her to chambers with an 18-inch stack of stuffed file folders.

We prospective jurors chewed the fat. Chatted about school policies and mandatory testing. Did I mention there were three teachers in my enclave of ten jurors? Then talk turned to the lady sitting by the prosecutor. He was all FBI-haircut, white-gray tresses, and black eyebrows in a permanent frown. His crisp dark suit lacked the spot on one flank that trailed Dr. Leary's every move. The juror two ladies left from me said, "I think Dr. Leary sat on a mini Reese's. And I speak from experience. I want to tell him, but I don't think it's appropriate." I thought it looked more he sat in gum. But I deferred to Two Ladies Left.

The lady beside Mr. FBI, though, was the main topic.

"Do you think she's an attorney, too? His partner?"

"I don't know. She looks like more of an assistant."

"I was just asking. Because she has that tattoo..." Let the record show that indeed, the lady was wearing a scoop-neck knit top, and the tattoo on her left chest was obvious. Even to the juror behind me one pew.

"Well, I have a tattoo, but it's small, and it's on my foot. I'm just wondering if she got that before she became an attorney. And why she doesn't dress to cover it up."

"I know. I have one on the back of my neck. But my hair covers it. You'd think she wouldn't show it like that in court." Said my work crony, who after all had arrived in the verboten shorts and tank top.

And then the conversation came to a screeching halt. Into the courtroom strolled Dr. Leary, WITH HIS CLIENT!

We hushed up right proper. Faced forward and looked straight ahead. Like fifth-graders caught in a spitball fight when the teacher enters the room after a hall conference.

Dr. Leary led Client to the table. Sat him down in a chair facing away from us, facing the bench and chambers. Client wore prison grays with a white t-shirt under the shirt. He was tall and lanky and old, with flowing gray curls down to his shoulders. He kind of shuffled in, though he wore no leg irons or handcuffs. Dr. Leary patted him on the right shoulder, and said, "You sit here. I have to go back in chambers, but I'll be back soon."

Client mumbled something to the effect of, "Oh, great. Now I have to sit here in front of everyone with them looking at me." Not verbatim. But close. His hands appeared to shake a bit as he grasped the chair arms.

Let the record show that last time I was in court, all the last times I was in court, it was for civil trials. Not criminal. No plaintiff appeared until the actual trial. And now we had the criminal, six feet away from me, with his armed county deputy leaning against the wall about 15 feet away from him. We did not know how to act. Even though the prosecutor had announced early on, soon after 8:30, that this would be a criminal trial concerning two counts of assault, and a plea of not guilty.


Val Thevictorian is not a timid woman. She has, after all, interviewed at two different prisons for a job as a caseworker. She has had her belongings removed, in order to have identification available should something go wrong while she was inside the big house. She has been advised that if an incident should occur, she would be in the bowels of the facility in her prospective job office, with 16 doors locked behind her, and nobody negotiating for her release.

Still. I was nervous.

I assumed that Client was a prisoner, and must have assaulted (allegedly) the prison guard(s). Now he was proclaiming his innocence. As if they didn't have cameras all over the prison to show what actually happened. Then again, what did he have to lose by denying the (alleged) assault?

The attorneys and Judge Missy Miss and the stenographer returned from chambers. We rose and were seated. Dr. Leary advised Client to move to the other side of the table! They both sat down and faced us. Now about 10 feet away.

Two Ladies Left said, "Look! He's checking out our body language. The whole time the prosecutor is questioning jurors, Dr. Leary is watching. He made Client to that on purpose. So we have to look at him. See him as a person." Very astute, Two Ladies Left. She is a teacher, after all.

Of course I could not bring myself to look at Client. I didn't want to seem rude. To stare. I looked at Mr. FBI until my neck hurt from turning. Then I looked at his tattooed assistant. Then at Judge Missy Miss. Then at Dr. Leary (BRIEFLY!). Then at the armed deputy. Then back to the stenographer and Mr. FBI. One time my concentration lapsed. Mr. FBI questioned the juror immediately on my left about why she felt she could not devote her full attention if this trial lasted well into the night, and continued the next day.

"Well, I am diabetic, and I need to eat at regular intervals."

"How much would you say that occurs?"

"Well...I need to eat three meals a day."

That sent a titter through the courtroom. Myself included. I met Client's eyes. He was chuckling as well. YIKES. I didn't want him to think we were best buds. More info came out during the questions. Client had previously served time for a drug-related offense. Nothing violent. The assault charges were because (allegedly) Client waved a replica gun around when a female parole officer and a female police officer went into his house unannounced. Huh. Didn't seem quite fair. I wouldn't want anyone coming into MY house unannounced. Then a juror asked if they kicked the door in, or knocked. Yes. They knocked. And identified themselves. Did Client point the gun at anyone? Or wave it around?

"Why do you need to know that?" asked Dr. Leary, who was the current questioner.

"Because I am a CO1, and it makes a difference to me."

"I'm sorry. What is a CO1?"

"I'm a corrections officer."

"Oh! Well! I'm glad I found that out!" Dr. Leary pointedly drew a line through that juror's name and number. A chuckle went through the juror pews. Even Mr. FBI stopped scowling.

I glanced at Client.


Yeah. Just when I was starting to see his side of it, he had to do that.

More on the ever-shifting tide of Val's would-be justice-doling tomorrow...

Friday, September 25, 2015

A Simple Case of Mistaken Identity. It Could Happen to Anyone.

Of course court started late.

We prospective jurors had to be there by 8:30, but it was 9:50 when the judge entered, and ascended her throne or bench or Mount Olympus (I am not a respected civics scholar, despite my valedictorianness). And therein lies a brief pre-tale.

Our courtroom had the tall judge's desk thingy in the middle of the front wall, with a hall hidden behind for chambers and the restrooms. In front of the judge was a lower desk area for the circuit clerk. Then a little corral area in front of it with two long wooden tables, for the defense on the left, and the prosecutor on the right. Each table had four sturdy wooden chairs, two on each side. So the people could be facing us, or have their backs to us. On the right wall was a raised pen with stationary swivel juror chairs, facing across to the left wall, with an identical pen of the same chairs, but no little wall in front. The court stenographer had a raised box area on the right wall, near the jurors. The rest of the room was comprised of twenty wooden pews, facing the front, ten on the right half of the room, with high windows letting in sunlight, and ten on the left side of the room, by the wall with the door enter the courtroom.

My seat was in the first pew on the left side of the room, the first seat on the middle aisle. Yeah. I was not so pleased at sitting in the front row. But that's where my juror number fell. In front of me was the low wooden wall that bordered the corral. There was no swinging door, but an opening in the middle, and one near each end.

While waiting for the show to get underway, we prospective jurors sat and murmured. Small talk. Only ten of us were on my half of the courtroom. Seven to a pew. Three behind us. The right side was a full house, seven to a pew, all ten pews. Except for the ONE juror who did not show up. Can you say, "Warrant for your arrest has been issued." Because it has.

There was a bit of activity to watch. The bathroom parade. The circuit clerk behind her laptop screen. The judge in and out. I knew our circuit has two female judges. I remember seeing one of them during my last jury duty several years ago. But now, she looked different. Oh, well. People change. I look different, too. Or maybe it was the other female judge. The one I voted for, but didn't remember seeing. Yeah. That must have been it. She was up on her bench. Down talking to the clerk. In and out of chambers. Talking to the attorneys briefly in passing as they put down their stacks of file folders and puttered with their female assistants.

The judge was dressed in a form-fitting red-and-blue dress. Kind of like Peggy Bundy might wear, only not gaudy. But form-fitting. Knee-length. The front half red, the back half blue. Tasteful enough, I suppose. I don't know what judges are supposed to wear. I DO know that our pamphlet told us to dress for the seriousness of the occasion. No ragged jeans, no cut-offs, no tank tops, no shorts. Yet in came my work crony at 8:29 in running shoes, shorts, and a t-shirt. Nobody said anything about it.

I will jump ahead here now, and come back to some particulars in the next few days, because I want to get to the point of today's pre-tale. Yes. There is a point.

Finally, when we were ready to begin, the bailiff announced, "All rise for the Honorable Judge Missy Miss." And in came A WOMAN I HAD NEVER SEEN BEFORE!

The "judge" I had been watching work her way around the courtroom all morning clip-clopped in her tasteful not-spike, not-platform heels across that corral and ascended the wall box.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

40 Gals, 1 Pot

Today begins the first in a series of JURY DUTY posts by Val Thevictorian!

I know. You're salivating. Chomping at the bit. Pounding the bottom of a ketchup bottle as Antici--paa--aaa---tion plays in the background. Calm down. We must start slowly. You're not even warmed up yet.

Let the record show that Val arrived at the county courthouse at 8:10 a.m. That's inside. In line to get her badge. We were supposed to be there by 8:30. Overachiever that she is, Val dropped off The Pony a few minutes early at school, then turned T-Hoe in the direction of bill-paying town and the courthouse. To get a good parking space, you know.

There are several one-way streets around the courthouse. Two, to be exact. So I made a big square U to see where I should stable my trusty T-Hoe while I was doing my civic duty. WHAT? The whole side of the courthouse was empty of automobiles! It had to be a trick. Usually, there are cones and signs marking those spaces for judges or officials of some kind. So I thought it was a trick, and went on by, and turned left.

The next street had all spaces clear on my right, beside the bank. Having just watched Parking Wars before leaving the house, I looked for signs about non-bank customers being towed. None. It looked as if those spaces were up for grabs. But I continued. Must be a trick.

Another left, and that one-way street had parking all along the side of the courthouse as well. Hm. By the time it registered that I could just park there, I was past that block. Okay. So I would just park past the liquor store like I did years ago when I had the jury duty. Even though now there is a big annex across the street with a big parking lot. I was fine. Way up at the end of the block.

I walked down that block, past the liquor store, which was disturbingly open at 8:00 a.m., across the street, and up the courthouse steps. Oh. No I didn't. They were roped off with a plastic chain. So I backtracked to the other set of steps, and took the handicap ramp. Four times as far, but no strain on the knees.

Inside, I got in line for my badge. I WAS NUMBER...wait. I shouldn't really give away identifying facts. Lets just say there were seventy people ahead of me. Let the record show that the one and only time I got picked to sit in on a case I was number eighty-four. So I wasn't thrilled. Even though I should have been.

I asked if there were bathrooms on the 3rd floor. The lady motioned with her head a simultaneous NO and a direction where the ladies room was located. I made sure to go before I went upstairs. As luck or stupidity would have it, I could not find the elevator. Even though I remembered taking it the last time. So I had to trudge up a double flight of stairs to get to the 2nd floor. But THERE WAS THE ELEVATOR. Hello, old friend. Let's go for a ride.

Once in the courtroom, a bailiff told me to sit on the front row. THE FRONT ROW! More on that another time. Speaking of time, at 8:29, my school crony showed up. And she had a number highter than mine! Even though they were randomly assigned and laid out when we arrived. Time ticked away. The bailiff kept announcing that if we needed to use the restroom, we should do it NOW. Because once we started, it could be hours before we could get up.

I swear that room full of old ladies is not responsible for keeping those overactive bladder drug companies in business. We didn't start until 9:50, and some of them had gone THREE times by then. Which was difficult, since the only women's room in that old courthouse was back in chambers, at the end of the hall, and was a one-seater. That's what the bailiff called it. When he got all excited and ran back there and told the waiters to wait in the courtroom, in a line, and not in the chamber hall.

I don't know what you call the toilet in your house. We could never say the word toilet in mine. My mom always called it "The Stool." Some might call it the throne, the john, the water closet, the potty. But my pupils at school often call it the pot. As in, "He's on the pot." Really too much information when I ask if a kid might have gone home early, or was held by a teacher after class.

Yeah. I guess we're lucky we had indoor plumbing and not an outhouse. Or a Port-A-Potty. Still, it's kind of barbaric to expect 40 old women to use ONE toilet (some of them more that their share of times) while waiting for court to start after taking one's blood pressure meds.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Driver's License Office Needs to Hire That Guy

Yesterday afternoon I received my work ID. It's not like we have to wear them around. No badges or lanyards. Val is a big fish in a shallow puddle. I think it's simply a courtesy of the picture-taking company. After all, they make us make the same poses as the kids. We might as well have something to distinguish ourselves.

An office worker brought them around. "Here, Mrs. Thevictorian. I've got your ID."

"Thank you! Look at it! It looks like me!"

I really wasn't trying to scare that little gal. We go way back. To last year.

"No! I mean, it's a lot better picture than on my driver's license. I'm really hoping that one DOESN'T look like me."

Oh, well. She had places to go and faces to hand out. So I stuck the ID in my pocket. After school, standing by my classroom door getting ready to leave, I remembered that ID.

"Hey, Pony. Look. I got my school ID."

"It doesn't look druggy at all!"

"Well, your grandma only said I looked like I'd been on an all-night drinking binge. Nothing about drugs. That driver's license is good until 2019! I wish they could put THIS picture on my driver's license. I happen to think it looks GOOD! Although I do look a little bit like your Aunt Sis. It's the angle of my head. That weird way she holds hers. I know it's not genetic. That photographer TOLD me to put my chin down--"


"What?" I looked to the doorway and saw The Pony standing out in the hall, and one of my last year's students walking by. "I don't care if Mikey hears about my sister and the way she holds her head."

"SHHHHHHH." Mikey passed on by. "That's not what I was talking about. Um...'It doesn't look druggy at all?' That's why."

"Oh, you said that way before even got here. That's nothing."

Yep. Nothing. Compared to that horror-movie-esque wallet-size poster of a driver's license photo I have to carry around for four more years.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Would This Be Frowned Upon?

Perhaps I mentioned that Hick is planning to start building buildings again. Indeed. As if he ever FINISHED building buildings. I think I know what prompted him to start his latest bottleworks structure. Of course, he didn’t mention this key factor until after the fact. Last night, he casually let it slip. Kind of like other things he casually lets slip.

“I think my snake is back.”

Let the record show that Hick is not a plumber. And has no twisty snake for rooting out sewer pipes or clogged toilets or stubborn sinks. That I know of. Sure, he might have a whole collection at work. But he’s never mentioned that one of them had gone missing.

“Oh, you do, do you? What gives you that idea?”

“Over in the BARn, a bunch of my bottles were turned over.”

Let the record show that although Backroads is located uncomfortably close to the long-overdue New Madrid Fault, we don’t have random quakes that might vibrate Hick’s glassware. The last time he said a mouse was tipping things over. Always the drama diva, that Hick.

So…I believe Hick believes that he can make a snake-proof shed that can keep his pretties all in a row. Need I remind you of what he found down at his creekside cabin a while back? I don’t remember if that was inside or outside. Of the cabin, of course. I KNOW it was on the outside of a snake. I’m a science teacher, by cracky! What it DOES illustrate is that when Hick completes a building and gets to stockin’, the snakes come a flockin’. I don’t know how he plans to make his proposed showplace a snake no-no place.


Right now that dream of a sparkling bottle showplace is just a gleam in Hick’s eye, and a thorn in Val’s side. If I didn’t think it would tip Hick’s hand and give him all the more reason to campaign heavily to loosen the purse strings clutched tightly by the old-crone-fingers of Val…

…I would go over to the BARn every night after Hick buried his head under the quilt with his breather, and lay all those bottles down.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Aren't Y'all a Little Late With That Intervention?

Hark! Do you hear what I hear?

Said the Hick man to the lovely Val
Do you see what I see
Over by the Sword Shack, lovely Val
Do you see what I see
A shed, a shed
Standing so upright
With jars on a shelf to this height!
With jars on a shelf to this height!

Said the lovely Val to her old man Hick
Do you hear what I hear
Ringing through the air, old man Hick
Do you hear what I hear
A snap, a snap
Of the ol' purse strings
No shed over my dead body
No shed over my dead body

Yeah. Do you hear what I hear? It's not the pounding of a hammer as for building a special shed to house jars and bottles. That's Hick's latest plan. He sprang it on me yesterday, when I was still weak as a kitten with my sickness. The latest plan, from the man who can't build his wife a writing shack out back, but has, since telling her to go to Lowe's and pick one out, built a Sword Shack, made space for a bottle house, and contemplates a new cabin up on the other property by the creek where the rocks were dug out, making a waist-deep swimming hole.

You might hear something. That would be a power saw. Hick had his oldest boy bring him some giant pallets, and he found out he couldn't hammer them apart. So he spent yesterday afternoon sawing through nails.

He really needs to get a business license and charge admission.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Hick Really, Really Likes Pizza

My sweet baboo volunteered to do the Walmart shopping this morning. Actually, he volunteered last night. He asked me for the list at 7:15 this morning. As you might surmise, I did not have the list made yet, having devoted all my energy to surviving the night, and trying to catch up on the sleep deficit of approximately 33 hours, which has been accruing since a week ago Wednesday.

Hick declared that he wasn't ready to shop YET. Just as well, because his assistant, The Pony, was still abed. They eventually left at 10:15 and returned at 11:30. Giving me time to nod off intermittently in the recliner under a toasty afghan.

Hick stuck to the list admirably. Unlike that time we were first married, finances tight, and he lost the list on the way to the store and spent $35 on cookies and ice cream. One little hiccup this morning was the pizza he picked out.

I had put on the list that he could get a pizza from the Walmart deli if he so desired. Not in those words, though. We haven't had one of them in about 6 months, and he used to ask for them when I made the list. Which I suppose says more about my cooking than about Hick's eating habits. I always get the supreme. Then I pick the pepperoni off half and stick it on Hick's part, and all the red, green, and yellow peppers off and stick them on my part. We're the Spratts like that.

Hick brought home the 3-meat pizza. Which is fine. I still pick off the pepperoni. But the pizza Hick brought home looked like something off of Man vs. Food. It was bigger than a man-hole cover. Bigger that a drainage pipe that prisoners can escape through. Bigger than a Hoover Dam outflow pipe.

Then Hick proceeded to ask how to cook that behemoth, because he was ready for lunch. Let the record show that while Val daily eats her school lunch at the scheduled time of 10:53, she has been off her feed, and was not at all ready to tackle this gargantuan feast at 11:30 a.m. Hick had a small hissy-fit, declaring that he wanted two pieces, but that we could save the rest and warm it up for supper. Meaning that he would wolf it down in less than five minutes, and Val would be left portioning and storing the leftovers. Then Hick decided, "Don't do nothin' for me! I'll eat a baloney sandwich!" and stalked out. Most likely with the thought of making his own bologna sandwich heavy on his mind.

Anyhoo...we (and by "we" I mean me, myself, and I ) cooked that humongous meatzza for supper. I sawed it up into slices. Then I put a large flat generic Tupperware container on the counter, and told Hick he could save the leftovers in that when they cooled. Yes, I know he took over an hour out of his busy schedule to do the shopping for me. But I've been sick. With no steroids. Hick looks like he could compete in an Iron Man competition.

I'm sure my sweet baboo won't mind putting away the meatzza leftovers. So we have food to get us through the winter. It's not like he has to boil them up and pressurize them into the 7853 Ball and Mason jars he has collected.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

I'm Pretty Sure Hick Is Trying to Kill Me

Hick stayed home from work yesterday and commandeered The Pony as a chauffeur for a doctor run. He returned with a steroid and a Z-pack. Can you believe my sweet baboo did not even ask for a complimentary cough medicine for Val?

He seemed much better when I got home from my full day of work at 4:00. He even popped up out of the La-Z-Boy with nary a sign of the dizziness that kept him home. "Here. You can have the recliner." Alas. I was so miserable that I eschewed that grandiose offer, and went to lay down in the bed. For 20 minutes, I told Hick and The Pony.

Five minutes later, Hick was in the bedroom telling me tales from his work, WHICH HE HAD NOT EVEN BEEN TO THAT DAY! So much for a power nap. After 13 minutes had elapsed, I told Hick I did not feel at all rested, so I was getting up. He chose that moment to go out and feed the chickens and ride around on the Gator. I'd say he was healed.

Last night I went to bed at 12:30 and got up at 4:30. Sleep is impossible when your head is full of yellow snot, and you cough every 12.3 seconds. I'm sure the night was not enjoyable for Hick, but he slept away, breathing the breath of the breather. I heard him get up to get ready for work at 5:30. Then I slipped off into slumber, or a short coma.

I was awakened by Hick lecturing me that I needed to go to the doctor. I pooh-poohed the idea. "All I need is rest. Which I am NOT getting right now, after I finally managed to fall asleep." Hick left for work, with a backwards comment that I needed to take care of myself and have The Pony drive me to Urgent Care. I do not want The Pony to catch a glimpse of his future of trimming my bunions with a razor blade and changing Hick's catheter. Not that he has one yet. Hick, a catheter...not The Pony, a future.

Do you know how much time there is from 6:00 a.m. until 9:00 a.m.? Too darn much. I toyed with the idea of Urgent Care. No. I was feeling better after a chair nap. No. I was worse. No, they wouldn't do anything for me. No, I might get sicker over the weekend. No, I couldn't breathe. No, I just needed to get in the shower and breathe the moist air.

After my shower, weak as a kitten, I sat down at my laptop, Shiba, and looked up the hours of the Backroads Urgent Care. They're usually Not-So-Urgent Care. Rarely are they open the hours painted on their door. Still. Hick had told me they were open yesterday when he went to his pharmacy courtesy of The Pony's non-lead foot. Not sure how he knew this, because you can't see it from the road. Perhaps he was talking about two evenings ago when he picked up Hot & Sour soup for me because I thought it might cure what ailed me. They're right next door, you know. The Chinese restaurant and Urgent Care. I'm sure that speaks volumes.

I noticed that Urgent Care swore they would be open from 9:00 to 2:00. So is my pharmacy on Saturdays. And it's on the OTHER side of the Chinese restaurant. Nothing like having everything in a one-stop mini-mall. I figured I would need time to get a prescription if they gave me one. Oh, and there were the new patient forms online. I could kill four birds with one stone and fill them out at home, in the comfort of the La-Z-Boy, without toddlers coughing in my face.

By 11:20, I was ready to go Urgently to town. I put on my Jackie O/Elaine B sunglasses that I bought at Walmart about 10 years ago. I left The Pony home. I parked way down past the Urgent Care door, where there has been, at various times, a karate school. a safe secret (?) haven for battered women, and a warehouse. I went inside and saw that I was the only one in the waiting room. A toddler could be heard ruckusing in an exam room, but I paid no nevermind to that. The receptionist called me Honey, took my two insurance cards, did not charge me a copay, and gave me three papers to fill out. I showed the ones I had completed, and she said they were not for Urgent Care, but for the regular doctor's office that runs Urgent Care. They get you comin' and goin', those doctors.

I filled out the new forms with info from my completed forms. Then I was called back so the receptionist could take my vitals. Within minutes, a woman I could only presume was a nurse practitioner came in. She looked me over and quizzed me on symptoms. Apparently, the only thing red that Val was lacking was a Rudolph nose and a baboon butt. The throat, both ears, and both nostrils were flaming. NP saw on the form that I was allergic to ampicillin.

"Can you take amoxicillin?"

"Um. I'd rather not. Because I'm pretty sure it's still in the penicillin family, and my son had an ER visit after a reaction to that, like I had one after my reaction to ampicillin."

"Yes. I didn't know if you were allergic to ALL the -cillins."

"I pretty much think so."

"How about azithromycin?"

"I've had it before."

"I'll give you that, and a steroid to help with your ears and the cough and the sinus infection."

"Okay. So if the steroid will help with the cough, I won't need cough medicine?"

"No. In fact, I can't give you anything stronger than over-the-counter for the cough."

"Okay. So what kind should I get? Because of the high blood pressure."

"WAIT A MINUTE! I'm glad you said that. I forgot you had high blood pressure. Forget the steroid. It will make your blood pressure go up. You can get Robitussin. That should let you cough it up and keep it from settling in your chest for pneumonia."

You see? They can't give cough medicine to someone with a cough, because they are too busy giving it to people who dip their little cigars in it, and pour it in soda for a cocktail. I remember the day when I could CALL the doctor, and he would write out a prescription, and my mom could pick it up and get the medicine for me. Those days are long gone, my cough-medicine-jonesing friends!

I walked down the min-mall to get my Z-pack filled, and pick up some Tussin, the pharmacy's brand of Robitussin. Then I headed home to lay in the La-Z-Boy and rest, drink some more water, and think about what to make for lunch. I decided on a Hot Pocket Philly Cheese Steak, because they've been sitting in Frig II's freezer for a long time, and I can't taste anything anyway. I opened the Z-pack, read the instructions, and took the first two pills.

And now...for the evidence when I turn up dead with no explanation...

Hick called me from over by the BARn about an hour ago. The BARn, where he's been since he got home just before noon, without even checking on my welfare.

"Did you get medicine? Do you feel better?"

"I got a Z-pack and Robitussin. She was going to give me a steroid, but I have high blood pressure."

"I have high blood pressure. And I got a steroid. you feel better?"

"No. I feel pretty bad."

"Did you take your medicine?"

"Yes, with lunch."

"Did you take all six pills?"

"Um. No. I took two. Like the directions said."

"That's why you don't feel good! You were supposed to take all six! That's what is says to do."

"No. Two the first day. Then one each of the next four days."

"No, that's the steroid!"

"I didn't get a steroid. THAT'S what you take the step-down doses of! Six, then five, then four, and so on. I had that when I had my ampicillin reaction."

"No, you're confused. You were supposed to take all six."

"I ONLY HAVE SIX! I know I'm not supposed to take them all."

"Well, you must have a different kind of Z-pack than me."

He's trying, people. Trying to knock me off with faulty dosing information.

Friday, September 18, 2015

A Heartburning Day with the Staggering Genius

When I got up this morning, I never would have suspected this was the day I would almost be caught at work with my vibrator. Yeah. I said it!

In fact, when I got up this morning, at 2:30 a.m., I never would have suspected I'd make it to the bathroom without breaking a bone. I took several steps, but an unknown force pulled me to the right. It was fine while I was going around the end of the bed, but when I wanted to make a beeline for the bathroom, I kept veering. Like a drunk college freshman with chronic vertigo at a frat party after spinning around fifty times with my head on the end of a baseball bat. I slammed my shoulder and entire right side into the door frame. I think even Hick, head under the quilt, lulled by the roar of his breather, noticed.

Ha ha! The joke was on me. While I had to get up at 5:00 and get dressed to attend a professional development day at work, Hick got up and went, then returned up the driveway 20 minutes later.

"I'm dizzy. Every time I hit a bump, my head spins. I can't drive like this. I'm staying home. I'll have The Pony drive me to the doctor at 8:00."

Never mind that Val had to drive herself to work. And work. All day.

The Pony was cheated out of his day off, during which he had planned to lay around and write poems. It's not like he could drive both of us. Hick is the squeakiest wheel. The stickiest wicket. The unhappiest camper. Okay. Maybe you find that last one hard to believe. But Val always goes to work when she's sick. Hick...not so much.

Sick days, sick days everywhere, but not a one to take. Today. Because it was professional development. Without it, Val would not develop properly for her last year of employment. Missing on such a day is as frowned upon as having sex with the cleaning lady on your desk. So...I went to school. I coughed through the guest speaker's three-hour presentation. In fact, I coughed so much that a colleague at my table, let's call her Sweet Alabama Beige, leaned over and said, "If I had a cough drop, I'd give it to you."

"Cough drop? I have one in my mouth RIGHT NOW!" And I weren't a-woofin'! Never mind that Sweet Alabama Beige had four individually-wrapped fruity Life Savers laying there in front of her. I suppose she wasn't THAT keen on helping 'ol Val. Fair enough. I went through six cough drops (not the tasty wild cherry Smith Brothers kind,

but the pungent Halls Mentho-Lyptus Honey Lemon kind. Which gave me a case of heartburn. Must be the active ingredient. The lyptus, perhaps.

Yes. I was a Virus Val, spreading my sickness like Typhoid Mary dishing up tasty diseased meals. I cautioned all who sat at my table to abandon hope. Only two were brave enough to join me. And one was as sick as me. In an effort to stay hydrated (because Val Thevictorian knows what's the best treatment for a cold), I drank five bottles of water and one cup of hot chocolate between 8:00 and 3:00. Yes, I took an unauthorized bathroom break.

It was during the 90-minute lunch period that I was almost caught (by the maintenance staff) with my vibrator. Let me explain. It's not one of those pleasurable vibrators. I haven't had one of those since my college roommates gave me one for a birthday present. I'm talking about the vibrating piece I took out of a neck pillow that I got for the pain in the back of my neck after my thyroid was mostly ripped out. This neck vibrator is great for placing on the side of one's nose, or above one's eyes to relieve nasal congestion. Vibrates the snot out of ye, it does!

Here's picture of it right after the near-catching:

I had just turned it off and set it aside so I could blow my nose. You know. To clear it of some of that yellow-green stuff that vibrated out my nostrils. And wouldn't you know it! Here came the little man with his big ladder. Because the very best time to fix a drip (for the past three weeks) in the ceiling due to a clogged air conditioner drain is at 12:15 on a Friday. Never mind the 8:00-11:30 and 1:00-3:00 time blocks. Oh, and did you know that fixing it requires two men, and two ladders, and the turning off of one's thermostat? The thermostat that runs the air conditioner on a day that reached 94 degrees here in the greater Backroads area.

Maybe Hick is NOT the unhappiest camper...

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Once Might Be an Accident, Twice Might Be an Oversight, But Third Time's a Conspiracy

Last night, the dogs were acting up on the porch. I don't know what got into them. Sure, The Pony and I came home about an hour late. But we still patted those fleabags, and I gave them their treat ration of cat kibble.

Around about 10:30, after The Pony had gone upstairs to get ready for bed, I heard a howl. Our dogs are not normally howlers. They yip. Sometimes in a syncopated manner, so you can't quite predict the next bark, which is especially irritating. Or Ann the black German shepherd will let loose with a baur baur baur string of chair-nap-awakening nonsense.

This was a mournful howl. Not at all like the fierce barks we've heard all week, our dogs baying at the demon poodle across the road. I don't know why those folks let him out at night. That mournful howl makes my hair stand on end. They did it when our 13-year-old dog Grizzly died. I'm not superstitious (okay, I'm really, really superstitious). That howl makes me wonder where every member of my family is, and if they're all right. I heard that howl on the side porch again at 11:30. And on the front porch at 1:00.

Of course I looked in on The Pony when I went upstairs, because the minute I rounded the landing and started through the living room, I head a footstep over by his room. He was fine. When I went to bed, I checked to make sure Hick was breathing, not just spraying automatic germy air out his breather. He was exhaling, and the breather was forcing air into his snout. That howling upset me. Thank goodness I didn't hear a Deathwatch Beetle, and have to rip up the floor like Sandra Bullock in Practical Magic!

This morning there were no dogs to be found. So I couldn't chastise them for the howling, while they heard WAH WAH WAH like I was Charlie Brown's teacher. When we got home after school, only Ann came to greet me, so I gave her a tiny bit of cat kibble. I figured my sweet, sweet Juno was in her house by the kitchen door. Ann has been stealing it the minute Juno runs out. Juno is no fool. She knows I'll toss a tasty treat into her house if she doesn't come get the kibble. In fact, I had saved The Pony's half-sandwich (he's been off his feed since that cell-phone-licking virus took hold) from yesterday for this very special after-school snack.

Juno was not in her house. I asked The Pony if he'd seen her. "Yeah. This morning we saw her."

"No. I think that was yesterday. We were running late this morning, and I don't remember stopping to pet her. You don't think she's in the BARn again, do you?"

"Uhhie uh." Which I think translates to 'I don't know.'

Hick came in a few minutes later. It was going on 5:30 by then. "Hey. Did you see Juno?"

"No. Haven't seen her. Not even last night."

"We fed her--uh--we saw her after school yesterday. But not this morning, and not tonight. You didn't lock her up in the BARn again, did you?"

"No! I wasn't in the BARn. I was working with the Sword Shack. Putting stuff in there."

"Well, she's missing. I hope she's not laying hurt somewhere."

Hick went off to feed the fowl. And putter with the Sword Shack. At 6:15 he called me.

"Juno is over here in the BARn!"

"Imagine that. Good thing you checked, just to humor me."

"Well, I was only in there a minute last night."

"She's been locked up all day! She'll need something to eat. And it was 87 degrees today! She must be parched!"

"Naw. She ran out and took a poop. Then she ran down to the creek for a good long drink. It was COOL in the BARn. She's fine."

"You give her some food!"

"She can run over to the house and eat out of her dog pan."

"You better make sure there's food in there. She missed her breakfast, and something else probably ate it through the day."

"She'll be fine. I guess I need to start calling her when I lock up. Dumb dog needs to learn to come out when I leave."

Yeah. Because my sweet, sweet Juno know when Hick us carrying stuff to the Sword Shack and returning, and when he is not coming back.

How many times is this now? I shudder to think. I suppose every morning that I don't see her, I should drive by the BARn and make The Pony check to see if Juno is inside.

I guess poor dumb Ann was trying, in her own way, to tell me Juno was missing last night.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Unlike Constructing New Stairs to the Attic, This New Quasi-Profession Does Not Require the Borrowing of a West Virginia Coal Miner’s Hard Hat

Val has now added another career to her repertoire.

Sliver miner.

That’s right. Sliver miner. I recognized my skill set just this morning, when I stepped into the shower and pulled the door closed. I had toyed with the idea of grabbing a new bar of soap when first I entered the master bath. The en suite, as those pretentious buying and building and selling shows call it. But no. “There was half a soap bar yesterday,” Val reasoned with herself, in order to delay the bending it would require to fetch a new Irish Spring with Aloe from below the sink.

Au contraire. Just as a Wimpy character may not actually pay you gladly on Tuesday for a hamburger today…a half-bar of soap on Tuesday does not guarantee Val Thevictorian a half-bar of soap today. That robust slab was but a sickly shadow of its former self. Frail. I daresay an anorexic nonagenarian with osteogenesis imperfecta, recovering from a bout of malaria, could have snapped it like a strand of parched angel hair pasta.

What could Hick have that needs such a scrubbin’ in his nightly shower? We probably don’t want to know.

Val is not one to climb out of the shower all drippy and hike across that tile floor on a soapquest. No sirree, Bob! She made do. Her fair (though wide expanse of) epidermis must have felt as if it had been invited to a banquet, and served stone soup. Not the towering version, either.

As she cranked back in the La-Z-Boy, all snug under an afghan for her morning chair nap, Val could not help but wonder, as she heard Hick slide back the door for his morning shower, “How in not-heaven is he going to scrub with that onion-skin-paper-thin bar of soap, and leave a still-thinner sliver for me?”