Saturday, April 30, 2016

All Good Things Must End, Puppy Jack

Friday evening we had Puppy Jack out on the porch. The Pony wanted a new picture of him to text to various girls. So he squatted down on his heels and tried to get Jack into the frame. Puppy Jack had other ideas. He's an inquisitive sort. As The Pony held the phone ready, Jack rushed up and sniffed it. His little puppy nose hit the camera button, and he TOOK A SELFIE! Much to his own surprise.

Not a flattering angle for you, Jack. And no fair including Val in the background, behind the prison bars of Baby Genius's rocking chair, now relegated to the front porch and the elements by Hick. Yep. Them's Val's red Crocs. And the chicken house in the distance, where no chicken deigns to sleep.

Perhaps Puppy Jack's expression is due to the disturbing news he overheard from Val.

Yeah. Hick is no longer across the pond, allowing Val and The Pony carte blanche with Puppy Jack's nighttime whereabouts. So it's off to the hutch for our dear puppy. He can handle it, though. He's much more self-assured than when he arrived. He doesn't even want to be held! He wants to gallop with his little bowed back legs along the porch boards, sounding like a herd of...well...bow-legged puppies on stampede.

One more week, and we hope to let Puppy Jack roam. Depends on his step-ascending, and more importantly descending abilities. He'll still have to be put up for a couple more weeks while we're at school. Can't have him running after Juno, and then getting pupnapped by a neighbor.

More on Hick's early return tomorrow.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Back-of-the-Book-Blurb Friday #12

Blog buddy Sioux is hosting Back-of-the-Book-Blurb Friday. I have 150 words to entice you to buy my fake book. Who's up for a little post-apocalyptic fiction?

The Pot Head Cometh

Whack A. Doodle has a date. Women are hard to find since the apocalypse. Now there's a new gal passing through Earth's End. Love at first sight. The way the nuclear glow reflects off her silver colander. The gleam in her eye behind the tinted science lab goggles. Her skin, fish-belly white. Whack is taking her to Eve of Destruction, the new diner out on Route 9. He plans to order a possum, roasted right at their table, on a spit over an open fire.

Whack adjusts his chain-mail snood and grabs the handle of his Radio Flyer. He'll pick up his would-be paramour in style, from the rusty 55-gallon drum where she has taken up temporary residence. Whack uses a little elbow grease to shine the smudges off his stainless steel stockpot hat.

Has the apocalypse provided the new beginning Whack has been waiting for? (146 words)


Fake Reviews for Val’s Fake Book

Stephen King…”This fake book was real bad. It made me want to take a stand!”

Mother Abigail…”Val has infiltrated the fake publishing world like a weasel in a henhouse. She is up to no good book, that’s for sure. No mayhaps about it.”

Tom Cullen…”I can’t read, but I know that Val’s fake book is poison. M-O-O-N. That spells poison.”

Randall Flagg…”I LOVED Val’s fake book. I see a future for her with my organization. She has a dark energy all her own.”

Larry Underwood…”Baby, can you dig Val’s book? The answer is unequivocally NO!”

Frannie Goldsmith…”I would rather have a make-out session with Harold Lauder on a broken-down Vespa than ever see one word of Val’s fake book again.”

Nick Andros…”Although I can’t speak out loud, I am screaming this message from the top of my hands: Val Thevictorian needs to be locked up, and the key thrown away, to keep her from inflicting this type of fake book on us in the future.”

Captain Trips..."You'll never fake-write another fake book, Thevictorian! One of these nights you'll forget to toss a hand towel over your head, and Hick's breather will spew me across your eager nostrils. It's all I can do to save the world from a fate worse than me."

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Val Does Not Wish to be Catered To

Val is off on a rant. "How uncharacteristic of her," you say. "Our Val is so even-keeled that she could walk across the undulating land-waves of a Richter 8.5 earthquake and never spill a drop of Diet Coke from her 44 oz cup, nor lose the encyclopedia on top of her head."

So much for how well you know me, and how good a liar(s) you are.

I've held this in until I'm near to boiling. Kept it on the back burner. Let it simmer for for five days. But now it must be rehashed. Served up with a grain of salt. Before I am stewing in my own juices.


There. I said it. There's no other explanation. The plate I received at the luncheon for The Pony's special award (a leg lamp--NO IT WASN'T! Gotcha!) was not fit for Val nor beast. Nor Val THE Beast.

My salad was fine. Some romaine with croutons, and two gravy boats of ranch dressing to pass around the table and pour. Not a big deal. Except those Greedy Gus members of my dining party started passing the dressing boats as soon as we sat down. When in Rome, you know, pass the dressing boat with the other Romans. So I tentatively started forking my salad. The Pony dug in with gusto, and was done almost as soon as Hick and his fellow scholar. I looked around, and noticed that WE WERE THE ONLY TABLE EATING! Though our fellow wistful diners did look jealous. So I laid my fork down.

What if the speaker was going to ask us to say grace? I was pretty sure that wouldn't happen, what with so many diverse families in attendance, and the separation of church and school and all. But what if he DID, and I had chipmunk cheeks full of romaine? Just as I was contemplating that scenario, I heard the mother of the other scholar chomping on her croutons like a horse chomping a world record carrot. I'm glad my fork was laying in my salad plate, so I was not mistaken for the eager eater.


It took a while for the entrees to reach the table. The Pony and the other scholar both picked up their dessert plates. The Pony had a layered slice of vanilla and chocolate cake, and the other scholar had a piece of coconut cake like the one in front of my service. The other scholar's mother chided her on having dessert first. Seriously. She had no room to chide ANYBODY on table manners. I told the other scholar that this might go on her permanent record. That did not deter her. Nor The Pony.

After almost every other table in the room (over 50) had been served their entree, ours arrived. Well, seven out of eight arrived. Hick did not get his until a few minutes later. By that time, I had seen the sabotage.

The Pony and the five other dining companions had a blob of lasagna the size of Paul Bunyan's hand on their plate. I had a blob the size of a preemie's palm. Then Hick's arrived, and he, too, had a Paul Bunyan hand. Very unfair, but Val IS trying to cut back. In fact, she had promised her dessert to The Pony with the caveat that she would get two bites. So having a bit less lasagna was not enough to stew Val's goose.

It was the vegetables. The vegetables, I tell you! We had on our plate the pile of lasagna, and a smattering of chunky vegetables. Looked like broccoli, carrot, zucchini, and yellow squash. For the life of me, I could not tell how they had been cooked. I saw no sauce. Eating the bit of yellow squash revealed no seasoning. I tried the one floret of broccoli. It was hard as all get-out to cut with that funky butter knife in our place setting. But even Val does not put a whole broccoli floret in her gaping maw in public. The broccoli was acceptable. Then I tried a bite of zucchini. I managed to slice it down the middle, like bisecting a tiny green barrel. I ate a piece of carrot. The smallest one. It looked like the newborn borne by one of the other two carrot segments.

But I could not cut or saw in half the other two carrots. My butter knife sent one shooting like a wayward tiddlywink toward the center of the white-tableclothed table. Thankfully, the rim of the plate caught my carrot like Yadier Molina snagging a Carlos Martinez 100.9 mph fastball.

That's right. Val was served a portion of lasagna the size of a newborn's palm, and vegetable chunks that had not been cooked other than perhaps being swished under a trickling stream of warm tap water.

How's a Val supposed to eat, anyway?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Literal Meaning of "Cute as a Speckled Pup"

In case you missed the major announcement yesterday...OUR PUPPY IS HERE!

Sure, he's a free pup from an "accident" between a blue heeler and a dachshund. But he's a PUPPY, by cracky! And he's OURS. He's still a little young to leave the nest, but his mother had issues feeding the seven hungry mouths, and they had to be put on canned puppy food. You know what? WE can buy canned puppy food! So now Jack is home. That's his name, you see. Jack. Just Jack.

Hick's oldest son, HOS, brought him to us Monday evening. He was going to bring him Sunday, but we had just gotten back from our weekend trip to Columbia, and HOS had driven Hick's car to the city so he could park at the airport for his France trip, and HOS's wife called on the ride back, and you know Val! I didn't want to cause any problems, so I said it was fine to bring the pup later in the week.

WELL! Come to find out, Hick had told HOS that I really wanted that pup NOW. I guess to replace Hick while he's gone to France. When in reality, it would have been easier to get the pup when Hick was back. Because we spent 90 minutes trying to get his little pup hotel all set up. Can't leave him running around the porch. He might fall off, and it's a long way down.

Hick had said to put him in the rabbit hutch where we kept puppy Juno, and to fill the chicken-watering can so he couldn't tip it over. WELL! Come to find out, both of Hick's chicken-watering cans had holes rusted through them. AND Hick had left old hay in the house part of the hutch, which was full of ants. SO...The Pony and HOS got it cleaned out, put a fresh bed of cedar chips in the house, sprayed the legs with Black Flag so no more ants would crawl up, and put a round flat casserole pan of water inside on the chicken-wire floor. VOILA! Instant pup hotel.

Here's a little secret. Just between you and me and The Pony and HOS. I brought puppy Jack inside the homestead for the night. He will have to spend his days outside in the hutch. He can't roam free just yet. But at night, he comes inside with us. We couldn't find either of the pet taxis, so he's in a tall storage tub with a cedar chip floor and a soft towel to sleep on. He'll be better off outside during the day, where he can watch the chickens and the mini pony and Juno.

Speaking of my sweet, sweet Juno...SHE LOVES HIM! Sure, I had a pocket full of a baggie with a sliced hot dog so she could have treats while we petted Jack. But she was more interested in Jack! When we fed him his evening meal of canned puppy food, Juno took some bites of hot dog. Just because Jack was busy standing on the front porch pew eating from a paper plate. When he whimpered, she ran to him and stared, wagging her tail.

Here they are, getting acquainted.

And a closeup of our new family member.

The Pony has been caring for him like an infant, setting that storage tub on his lap, then beside the couch, then taking it into the master bathroom to talk to Jack during his bath. "I just hate it when he cries!" I tried to tell him that's what pups do. He wants his caretaker, and misses all his brothers and sisters. The Pony went so far as to suggest that we take Jack to school, in his tub, and let him sit in my room. Not happening. Juno was fine in the hutch. Puppy Jack will be as well.

But at night, he can come inside. At least for 9 more days.

Shh...what Hick doesn't know won't hurt him.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Welcome Jack, Welcome Jack, Welcome Jack!

Welcome Jack
Your dreams are about to work out

Welcome Jack
To a place where you’ll never have to do without.

Well, you’ll learn all our names once you hang around.
And you’ll have 20 whole acres to leap and bound.

You can bet we’ll feed ya (You can bet we’ll feed ya)
Right here where we need ya (Right here where we need ya)

Yeah we’ll love you a lot ‘cause you got them purty spots, welcome Jack,
Welcome Jack, Welcome Jack, Welcome Jack.

Monday, April 25, 2016

I Guess Some Folks Might Say, "She ROCKS!"

Take a gander at THIS:

Coming back from picking up The Pony's special award (STILL not a leg lamp) on Sunday, we had to meet Hick's oldest son at Bass Pro Shop in St. Charles. It is perilously close to Ameristar Casino, you know. But with The Pony along for the ride, Val stayed out of that gambling den.

Anyhoo...we made our left turn into the plaza with Bass Pro, and passed this car on a rock. I saw it as we went by, and commanded The Pony to take a picture. But he would not! "That's HER business. Not yours." Well. Pity he didn't tell the 15 people running toward her from the Bass Pro parking lot.

Hick's Oldest Son, hereafter known as HOS, was waiting on the lot with Hick's car (my mom's Trailblazer) so Hick could take it to the airport for his trip to France. "Fine, Pony. I'll have HOS get me a picture." And he did. Two, in fact.

"I was standing here on the lot. I stepped out to smoke a cigarette, and heard a crash. Then I saw it. I don't know how she did it. Probably texting." He went and took my pictures.

Thing is, when I saw it, I immediately thought it was staged. Like a car dealer was having a special sale. It's like when they drive a car up on a ramp to attract attention, right? To catch your eye. Make you want to look at cars. But no. This was the real thing. You should have seen the army of men headed over there. Unfortunately, I think the younger ones only wanted a picture. The older ones, dad types, wanted to help. One guy passed Hick and said, "I bet a bunch of us all together could lift that car up and set it down off the rock." Probably. But you just don't know these days. There might be a lawsuit if somebody got a hernia.

Here's another picture. When a dad type first arrived on the scene.

The entrance to that area is to the left, right behind the car. Just a short little drive, with an innocent rock sitting off the pavement.

Life is stranger than fiction.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Hick Might Be the World Traveler, But Val Has Seen the Sights

Day 2 of the excursion to procure The Pony's special award...which is STILL not a leg lamp!

Let the record show that the Holiday Inn Express lived up to their commercial hype. We had a ground floor suite (meaning we had a king size bed and a couch) which was quiet, close to the breakfast bar, and clean and comfy. The window faced out on a courtyard, and if you glanced left, you could look into the indoor pool enclosure. Not that Thevictorians are peepers or anything.

The Pony preferred to sleep on the couch as it was, and not fold it out. Go figure. This is the boy whose spine is most likely scoliosed, and his skeletal muscles atrophied, due to laying on our basement couch 16/7 when he's off for the summer. AND the boy who, since he was 8, has complained that he hurt his back sleeping on my mom's hide-a-bed (her term for her fold-out couch in the family room) during the Great Icepocalypse of '06. Sheesh! You'd think he was Elaine sleeping on Helen and Morty's sofa bed at Del Boca Vista on the trip where Jerry took Jack Klompus's astronaut pen.

But we're not here to discuss Thevictorian sleeping arrangements, my friends. We're here to discuss the Holiday Inn Express free breakfast bar.

Let the record show that this was not our actual breakfast bar. Ours was even longer. In fact, they had to put the juices and coffee across the room on a separate bar. Oh, the bounty spread out before me! Pancakes, cheese omelettes, pork sausage patties, turkey sausage patties, bagels, cream cheese, biscuits, gravy, jellies, BUTTER (that's for The Pony, a true Butterton), muffins, danishes, cinnamon rolls, cereals, oatmeal, milk, yogurt, bananas, apples, oranges...and more that I'm sure I'm forgetting. Val showed restraint, my friends. While she secretly longed for one of each, with maybe seconds on biscuits and gravy...she limited herself to a single omelette, a single sausage patty, half a bagel, and a foil tube of cream cheese. Water to wash it down.

The Pony opted for a pancake swimming in Loch Syrup, a biscuit slathered with butter, a cinnamon roll, and two cups of orange juice. Hick went all out. He had two overflowing plates of biscuits and gravy, four sausage patties, an omelette, and 3 cups of orange juice. But let the record show that Hick would be departing for France at 7:05 p.m., so he needed something to stick to his ribs for a transatlantic flight. After the last meal at Genius's special award dinner, he knew he would not be getting his sustenance there. As I recall, we had a sliver of chicken, and three noodles that might have been rigatoni or penne with a dab of red sauce, plus three scraps of lettuce, and a tiny nondescript dessert that may or may not have been cake based.

But we're not here to discuss the Holiday Inn Express breakfast bar, my friends. Val misspoke. She was flying high on a rising blood sugar tide after eating more than she usually has by 6:00 p.m. As I told The Pony, "I could live here and feed throughout the day!" He did not much like that idea. But Hick was a kindred spirit when I told him that a person would be wise to have breakfast at 7:00, then return at 10:30 to eat again for a free lunch. We're hillbillies like than. Anyhoo...the point was moot, because we had that special awards dinner to attend at noon.

Now let's get to the point. What I sat down to tell you at the outset from inside my room down the hall from the breakfast bar.


That's right! There I was, slicing off a segment of omelette to accompany my portion of sausage, when I looked up to see a middle-to-late-aged woman striding across the carpet in a black slip. Oh, there was no mistaking it. IT WAS A SLIP! Thin straps like bra straps with that little plastic ring hooking the business boob-covering part to the strap. The length was barely covering her ample buttocks. I declare! When she leaned over to ladle out some gravy onto her biscuit, I SAW LONDON AND FRANCE, and no evidence whatsoever of underpants!

I was shocked. Hick was shocked. The people in line behind Slippy were shocked. The Pony? Not so much. His back was to her. But I did get his attention as she walked across the room to get coffee. "Meh. Looks okay to me." That boy is just not worldly enough to grasp the gravity of this situation. The breakfast bar tender came as soon as Slippy got in line. I'm pretty sure they have a closed-circuit surveillance camera on that area. She watched a minute. But did not pursue a conversation. I guess since no parts were dangling out, she let it slip. Get it? Let it SLIP! Heh, heh. I crack myself up sometimes.

Not sure what was going on with that woman. At first I thought she was barefoot, but then I saw flesh-colored slippers like ballet shoes without that annoying wooden block in the toe or the twiny ribbons up the calf. Slippy was tousle-headed. She brought a round tray that she scammed from somewhere, and filled it with food. Then she left. I thought perhaps she might have been running on unmetabolized Ambien fumes. An oblivious sleepwalker. She chatted with folks at the coffee machine. Then made her exit.

Anyhoo...the Holiday Inn Express free breakfast bar was great, even though the AMBIENce was somewhat questionable.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Talkin' Turkey About Smothered Chicken

Thevictorians traveled four hours today to be in town for The Pony's special award on Sunday. Again, he is NOT getting a leg lamp! He is sharing this honor with 99 other Missouri Scholars. The top of the top. Genius was also a recipient of this recognition during his senior year. However, we were able to procure a hotel room in the facility holding the dinner back then. This time, it was booked up like the Library of Congress. So we stayed at a Holiday Inn Express.

Val is not getting an award for being one of the top 100 scholars in Missouri. But she IS staying at a Holiday Inn Express tonight.

The Pony ditched us to go pal around with an old friend who's going to college in this town. So Hick and I were on our own for supper. After driving four hours, then finding the dorm to drop off The Pony for his rendezvous, and walking around the facility to see the indoor pool, a favorite hangout of Hick's...we decided to eat supper at the attached restaurant.

Being elderly folk, Hick and I headed to dinner just before 5:00 p.m. The better to miss the crowds, you see. Not that there was any crowd marching toward this restaurant like Sherman on Atlanta, Attila the Hun on Gaul, or Genghis Khan on China. No. There were a couple of middle-aged ladies there for happy hour. And some disinterested staff, holding it against us for daring to patronize their establishment. This had to be the most scandal-rocked locale since Grace Metalious blew the lid off Peyton Place. Coming in and going out, there were always two people standing around the corner talking in hush-hush tones.

Let the record show that this restaurant IS in a college town. Where alumni show up for athletic events, and visiting parents have money to burn. It has a sports theme. Let's call it HurrahRulers Pub and Grill. Where the waitresses are dressed like hurrahrulers. But it's not a boobie bar. It has big TVs all over the walls, and serves wings and beverages with spirits. But it also has other fare.

Let the record further show that Hick and I both enjoyed our entrees immensely. Which is a choice of words that I hope will not evoke an image of our portly personas. Hick had the smothered chicken, which was unable to gasp a last breath under a blanket of mushrooms, onions, and melted Monterrey Jack and cheddar. I had the grilled pineapple chicken on a bed of rice. Both were delicious, though Hick groused that his smothered chicken was NOT on a bed of rice, and that he was jealous, because mine had a bed and his did not. Silly Hick. His chicken was smothered, by cracky, and did not know whether it had a bed or not. Sheesh! To shut him up, I slid my square plate over next to his and commanded him to take half my rice. Which he did. Although his perception of half differs from mine by about 25 percent.

As our choice of side dish, we each chose a house salad. Watching our waistlines, you know. The salads were also served all artsy on square plates. I prefer mine in a bowl so I don't expend extra calories chasing it around, but I must say, this salad was worth the effort. Sure, it was bagged greens with a couple of strands of angel-hair-fine yellow cheese on top. But it had dried CRANBERRIES in it. Hick was impressed. "Whoever thought to put raisins in this salad was a genius. That's really good." I can't wait until he is served something comparably exotic in France.

Much to Hick's dismay, we did not get a hurrahruler waitress. She had the table behind us. We had a lad who came from the direction of the side bar. Not the front bar. Like Abby Lockhart from ER's performance evaluation read...he was technically proficient, despite certain attitude issues.

HurrahLad came and seated us, took our drink order, and returned oh so very promptly with two Diet Cokes. I don't know how they mix their syrup and carbon dioxide, but this was the most tasty Diet Coke I've had in a coon's age. (Don't listen, gas station chicken store! I'm still your loyal customer!) We ordered the food. He brought the salads without putting his thumbs in them. He was unobtrusive. We thanked him. The minute Hick placed his fork on his salad plate, HurrahLad sprinted to get it like a Centre Court ballboy at Wimbledon.

Our chickens came before I finished my salad. I resisted the urge to growl deep in my throat like my sweet, sweet Juno, but I held onto the plate as I moved it to the side. In addition, just for good measure, I kept a firm grip on my fork. Nobody takes Val's salad plate before she licks it cleaner that Jack Sprat and his missus's fat platter.

Right after bringing the chickens, HurrahLad swooped in again to set a fresh Diet Coke beside Hick's low glass. Then rushed back again to spirit that one away when empty. He did not try to make conversation. But he gave the distinct impression of being highly pissed off that we were there. He was like a waiter at Kellerman's resort in the Catskills. Thank goodness we didn't have an ugly daughter who planned to be a decorator with us for him to lure onto the golf course late at night for clandestine activities.

So...except for that, the dining experience was acceptable. The food part was great. Hick paid and waited for his change. Again, HurrahLad let his displeasure shine through. Or perhaps he just wasn't as bubbly as I expected. He placed the receipt and the change on the table beside Hick, thanked us, and turned on his heel. I had to holler him back. And I usually don't like to do the dealing with the staff when Hick is there. Hick gave him a 20% tip, which was plenty generous for the people skills of that HurrahLad.

I just don't get his disdain. It's not like he was an actor moonlighting as a waiter in Columbia, Missouri.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Back-of-the-Book-Blurb Friday #11

Blog buddy Sioux is hosting Back-of-the-Book-Blurb Friday. I have 150 words to entice you to buy my fake book. C'mon pardners! Pony up a $50 gold piece and fake buy my fake book! I'll give you change. Promise! Of course, that change may be in guineas. Hick is a world traveler, you know. Oh, who am I kidding? You KNOW that any change I give in guineas will be actual guineas. The feathered variety. Heh, heh! I don't give a farthing if you complain once I hand you those screeching unpleasant fowl. It's a done deal. Let the fake buyer beware!

Between Wayne, Bee, and the Hat Post

Catastrophe Wayne was in trouble. He had taken off his thinking cap for only a minute, and now he was lost. Where WAS that darn hat? He'd had no choice, really, what with that bee in his bonnet. Those hombres at the poker table had been right. Catastrophe Wayne WAS keeping something under his hat. But it had nothing to do with poker, and everything to do with stinger.

CW stumbled through the forest, thumping his nose on first an oak, then a cedar. That his flailing arms windmilled perilously past his well-hung chapeau no less than seven times was perhaps the unkindest barb of all. Well...after the end of that stinger, still sticking out of CW's bare scalp.

Will a sudden downpour decrease the swelling and allow Catastrophe Wayne to see again? Or will an attractive stranger riding the fence line appear with an EpiPen? (147 words)


 Fake Reviews For Val’s Fake Book

Al Capone, speaking from Geraldo Rivera's vault…”My fedora don't adore-a Val's fake book.”

Abe Lincoln, from under his stovepipe hat…”I honestly don't get the appeal of Thevictorian's fake book. The world will little note, nor long remember, what I say here. But it will never forget what she's done here. I'd sooner go see a play than read this tome by firelight.”

Charlie Chaplin, holding up title cards…”This fake book by Val Thevictorian does not bowl me over. It is not even suitable for a tramp to stuff into his clothing for warmth.”

Amelia Earhart, lowering her ear flaps…”Val Thevictorian's fake book makes me wish I could fly away and never hear of it again.”

Cat in the Hat, rhymin' like Simon… 
”I picked up Val's book
Just to see something new.”
Then out of his mouth came
Thing One and Thing Two.
"This fake book will bite you;
You will not have fun."
Out of his mouth came
Thing Two and Thing One.
"You should run away fast
And whatever you do...
Do NOT buy this book!
It is full of doo-doo."
The Mad Hatter…”Val Thevictorian has a regrettably large head. I very much love to hate it, as well as her fake book, which is nothing but jabberwocky."

The Captain, without Tennille…”I never want Val to do that to me one more time! Muskrat Suzie and Muskrat Sam both agree: they have no love for this fake book.”


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Jeepers, Peepers! You're a Bunch of BLEEPERS!

The post office is running a new scam. Uh huh. Those dead-mouse sniffers are up to no good! And I'm not just talking about their rate cut on a first class stamp that took effect April 10th!

Speaking of that first price drop in postage stamps in 97 years...Genius has mailed me two letters since he went off to college three years ago. I KNOW! I'm so very lucky! He bought himself a typewriter, wanting to take a walk on the retro side, and has typed me two letters. However...he went to the post office on lunch from his current job at an engineering firm in the city. He intended to simply pay postage to mail my letter, because he had left his stamps at home. He doesn't need many stamps, being an online bill-payer in the manner of today's techie young whippersnappers, and buys his stamps online too. BUT the post office window was closed, and all he could do was buy stamps out of a machine, which only sold BOOKS of stamps, pissing him off giving him displeasure, because as he said, "I'll NEVER use that many stamps!" So much for my hopes of more loving letters from the sweaty fingertips of my first-born son.

Anyhoo...Genius paid 49 cents apiece for those Forever Stamps. And now they're only worth 47 cents apiece! So much for using U.S. Postal Stamps as an investment.

No, it's not the rate drop that's the new scam. It's identity peeking. That's right. I said it. The USPS, at least in Backroads, appears to have a problem with peepers. Here are two envelopes I received the same day:

Of course I had to cut off the name and address part. What good is an anonymous blog if you go flashing your tracking bits all over the innernets?

The one on the left was for Genius. It was a credit card application. All he had to do was call and activate it. I'm hoping the seal just had faulty glue (and somewhere a licker has expired and released her impending groom from impending doom), and popped open when being wrestled into the not-gaping-enough round green maw of EmBee.

The second one was for Val herself, a statement from the MOSERS folks about her benefits from the five years she worked for the unemployment office. Funny how the end was ripped enough to slip those folded papers out for a peek, then slip them back.

You know how Val wants to believe the best of everybody. How she shies away from conspiracy theories. NOT ANY MORE, BABY! Something is up.

And that had better not be the balance on credit cards using my family's vital statistics!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

When It Flames, It Roars

Val is never really safe in her dark basement lair. All manner of calamities could befall her at any given moment. Which might, perhaps, explain the unevenness of her blogging efforts. There she'll be, with the most scathingly brilliant idea (take my word for it), her fingers poised to dance across the keyboard, when the phone rings. It's Hick.

"The woods are on fire."

"Okay. Which woods?"

"Up by the other land. Across the road from the boys' land. It's coming up behind the house. I called the fire department. Not 9-1-1. I called 3-1-3-1. The same number I called when I ran over the old lady with the city truck. That's the central dispatch office. I said, 'I have a fire tag. The woods are on fire.' And they took my name, and came out."

"How did YOU discover it?"

"I'd been smelling smoke all morning. Then I took the tractor down to the low water bridge for that sand for the sidewalk. And I still smelled it when I got back. Good thing I drove up here to take a look. It was on my buddy's property. I seen he had a couple of camper shells back there, so I called. I was standing out front talking to the fire chief. I know him. And we heard a big WHOOSH and a ROAR. 'Probly them propane tanks,' I told him. And he said, 'Uh huh. There's probly more.' Just then another one exploded. That ROAR sounded like a jet engine!"

"Where ARE you?"

"I'm down at the cabin."


"No. But I wanted to make sure it didn't get the cabin. It's headed that way. I can see it up on top of the hill."

"The FIRE?"

"No. The smoke. I don't want it to get to them cedars. Then the whole place would go up. That's why I called the fire department. We have a tag for both properties."

"They won't charge who called. They'll charge whose land it's on. Did that crazy guy with the sticks in the road start it?"

"No. It's my buddy's land. But I'm glad I called."

[Let the record show that bad blood between neighbors can start in a heartbeat if one calls the fire department and the other has not bought a fire tag for the year. Because then he'll be charged the actual cost of fighting the fire.]

"You get up here to the house. You'll burn up!"

"Val. I did this for five years. I'm across the creek."

"Fire can jump a creek. All it has to do is blow an ember on the wind. And that's the direction you say it's headed, if what you say is true."

"Them guys have their trucks."

"Is it out?"

"No. They have their blowers. They blew the leaves back and then burned it back."

"So it's out."


"How long ago was this?"

"I'd have to check my phone. About 30 minutes. They've been fighting it for 15.

Let the record show that the last thing a cedar house dweller wants to hear is that the woods are on fire, and the flames are headed in her direction.

No wonder Val can't concentrate.

Pics or it didn't happen:

"The propane tanks that burned up at the fire." Nothing in the subject line. Just an email from Hick, aficionado of propane tanks, it seems. I'm more interested in the wheelchair or bicycle in the foreground.

I guess those tires didn't make a WHOOSH and a ROAR.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Who Needs Tom and Jerry? Val Has Hick and The Pony!

You may recall that Hick decided to dig up the bricks in the sidewalk in front of the homestead, move that sidewalk a couple of inches towards the road to straighten it, and put the bricks back down. Yes, Hick was like a cat who suddenly decides it simply MUST be somewhere else IMMEDIATELY, and tears out of the room like a Red-Bull-powered Usain Bolt out of the starting blocks. He has worked on this project for over a week. Every spare moment. In fact, Hick even took Friday off so he could stay home with his bricks.

He sent me a picture Friday evening.

I am not belittling Hick's mad sidewalk skillz. I like my sidewalk. The bricks came from the alley behind my $17,000 house, after the city came by and dug them up to put down a blacktop road. Not an alley like between towering tenements, like in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. An alley like a little-used road that connects one main street with another, with expanses of back yards and side driveways bordering it. Our brick sidewalk is a little piece of history, that of the town, and that of Hick and me. Maybe we need to tell the boys that story. it just me, or does that sidewalk still look not straight? Perhaps it's just perspective. But I'm fairly certain the sidewalk is STILL under the steps. Which is a condition that Hick said he was remedying when I told him I didn't want the sidewalk messed up, because it has been part of our homestead for 20 years. Today Hick drove his tractor (the newest one from the MODoT auction, the one that didn't have steering for the first six months Hick had it without checking the steering fluid) down to the second low water bridge to scoop up some sand. Our sand isn't good enough, it seems. Actually, our low water bridge is known more for big flat rocks. Hick has picked up his share of them, too. Nature is just one big supply central.

You might notice that Hick is not the most conscientious picker-upper. It was evidenced in that previous picture where he was putting in the steps. Tools here. Tools there. Bits and pieces strewn about while waiting to get that sand to dump on the bricks and pound it down in the cracks.

Enter The Pony.

Trash gets picked up Thursday mornings. The Pony's job is to pull that green dumpster to the end of the driveway. On the way home, he brings it back down. Well. If I can persuade him. Usually it takes a couple days to get it back, even though I let him out at the end of the driveway and follow him down. This time he brought it Friday afternoon, but only because I chastised him that he would be gone all day Saturday to his scholar bowl tournament, and I wasn't waiting until Sunday to get my trash back.

The Pony made the turn at the carport to park the dumpster. I pulled into the garage and waited for him to come in to unload T-Hoe of our school accouterments. In he came through the people door.

"You know how in cartoons, you see people step on a rake and hit themselves in the head? Well...I just did that. Only I didn't know it was leaning up against the picket fence, and I was turning the dumpster around, and I stepped back on it with my heel. I hit myself in the back of the head. It kind of hurt."

"What did you do with the rake?"

"I put it back."

"Just like it was?"

"Uh huh. I reset the trap."

I might as well open up a bookmaking service and take odds on whether Hick or The Pony will be the next victim of rake fate.

Monday, April 18, 2016

No Sirree, Bobcat!

As I turned T-Hoe into the garage Thursday evening (POOF! You're a garage! Heh, heh. I crack myself up), The Pony shouted, "Look! A bobcat!"

Let the record show that only Wednesday morning, we saw a coyote cross the road in front of us at the turn-in to the school parking lot. My first in-person coyote. Right there in civilization. So when The Pony shouted about a bobcat, I was intrigued. I've never seen a bobcat in person, either. A panther, yes. Bobcat, no.

"Where? Where's the bobcat?"

"Over there! Under the carport!"

Um...under the carport? I backed up to get a look. I started wondering what we were talking about.

"You mean a Bobcat? Like a little dozer? Did Dad buy a Bobcat and not tell me?"

"No! The animal. Right there! I don't believe you can't see it!"

Then I did.

"Pony. That's a cat. A domestic cat. A foreign cat to us. But still a cat."

"NO! It's a bobcat! Look at it!"

"Get me a picture. Here. Though the open front window."

"I can't. I can't lean up. I really have to pee."

"Then get out and do it over the edge. Nobody will see."

"NO! I'll take your picture."

So the picture isn't great. But you can clearly see that it's a cat. Not a bobcat. The roaster pan of cat kibble was almost empty. Hick came over to see why we were so late. I asked him what he thought about our new cat.

"New cat? We didn't get a new cat!"

"There's one under the carport."

"No." He went to look. "There ain't no cat out there."

I haven't seen it since. But this much I know for sure. That was no bobcat.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Oui Oui Monsieur, Pack Underpants. Soon Our Hick Will Fly to France.

It looks like Hick will be going to France.

You know, because a man such as he is in great demand across the pond. We are fretting because it couldn't come at a busier time. The Pony has a special award (NOT a leg lamp, I swear!) dinner next Sunday that is a considerable distance away from Backroads. Hick thinks he will probably have to fly out that afternoon, because, as a world traveler, he says they usually don't book international flights that leave at night. So we might have to find a way to get him to the airport in a hurry.

At least he will make the dinner this week at The Pony's school, where The Pony's valedictorianship will be officially announced, and he (The Pony, of course, not Hick) will get a plaque for MVP for his scholar bowl team. However, if the trip is the following week as he imagines, Hick will miss the sectional scholar bowl tournament, a berth which the team just earned last night at districts. Oh, and Hick will miss prom. Not that he's going. Or that he even needs to drive The Pony and his date this year. It's just that he enjoys taking pictures and seeing The Pony prancing around in his finery.

For those of you going, "Hmm...maybe Hick really IS a spy!" Let the record show that he has made other international trips for work. Wales. Germany. Brazil. New Jersey. Oops! That last one slipped in there because such a place is as foreign to Hick as the others. But he DID get a free lawnmower there when they packed up a plant that was closing. I'm assuming he had permission. Not like that fly-by-night drainage pipe that appeared on the back of his trailer.

Hick never really mentioned WHY he might be going to France. Lest he be applying for a pharmaceutical delivery position from an unmarked storefront in France, I thought I should get some more details by text while he was riding the bus to the district tournament with The Pony's scholar bowl team. Some delivery driver he'll make! Can't even drive himself a couple of counties to a Missouri Mississippi River town.

"Why are you going to France?"

"To get machines we bought"

"Do you have to ride them like a raft across the ocean?"

"No I put them in containers like I have in the field"

"No free lawnmower for you."


So, I assume he means he will be dismantling some working machines and packing them in a freight container and then flying back while that container takes a slow boat to Missouri. I'm pretty sure a freight container is not coming back on a plane. And I'm pretty sure Hick's workplace won't want Hick on a slow boat back to Missouri. He doesn't elaborate much, our Hick. WHICH COULD BE A PART OF HIS COVER FOR HIS SECRET AGENT PERSONA!

I want to tell Hick to buy himself a black-and-white Frenchy-looking mime shirt while he's there. And a beret. To sit in a cafe and eat a baguette. Hand someone his cell phone and ask them to take a picture while he smiles and says, "Frommage."

Maybe I need to reconsider that cell phone picture. Wouldn't want him to end up cell-phoneless, like Clark W. Griswold lost his camera in National Lampoon's European Vacation.

I should also warn him not to toss his beret off the top of the Eiffel Tower. Especially if there's a lady standing next to him with a little dog.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Always the $5.00 Daughter

Every week I stop by the cemetery where my mom and dad are buried side by side, in a double plot. I know that the departed don't hang around in cemeteries. That you're more likely to encounter a criminal element than the spirit of a loved one. But having a place to go to pay my respects, have a one-sided chat, a moment of meditation, keeps me grounded.

It's not a hardship. The cemetery is right on the way to Walmart. So convenient. Sometimes The Pony is with me. Sometimes I go by myself. Today The Pony was off competing in the district Scholar Bowl match with his school team. So I went alone.

Ever since Mom's flower urn thingy was stolen by scrap metal thieves, we have had a problem keeping flowers on the grave. The cemetery-runners provided a replacement flower urn thingy, not metal, which theoretically operates the same way, and screws into the top of the flat headstone. However, we have also had that go missing, probably a slip-up by the grounds crew, and even when another flower urn thingy was provided, the flowers disappeared.

The cemetery sits on a hill, and sometimes a strong wind carries flower arrangements across a section, and even across the road. My sister the ex-mayor's wife, and the ex-mayor himself, usually put the flowers in the flower urn thingy. Way back early in his pre-ex-mayor days, the ex-mayor ran a florist business. So he knows what looks good, even plastically-speaking, and how to secure the fake stems in that green Styrofoamy stuff to hold them in place. I had mentioned to Sis that the flowers went missing again a while back. You know how life gets in the way of living. Her granddaughter, Babe, was in the hospital for almost a month with pneumonia, and grave flowers were the last thing on everybody's mind.

Today I stopped by and had a quiet one-sided chat with Mom. It went well.

I proceeded to Walmart to pick up a couple of necessities from the pharmacy end. No matter how hot Val gets under the collar, she prefers never to let her collar-heaters see her sweat. As I was pushing my cart (it doubles as a walker, you know!) down the main aisle to the checkout, I saw an end cap display of fake flowers for the upcoming Memorial Day holiday. What better time to pick up a fake bouquet for Mom? I could drop it off on my way back by the cemetery. Easy peasy. I grabbed a pretty pink-and-purple arrangement, and tossed it the cart.

With just a few items in my bag, I threw it on the seat behind me, today without The Pony's hindquarters in it. At the cemetery, I reached back to get that fake arrangement. I saw two white tags taped on a couple of stems. Mom was no Minnie Pearl. It wouldn't do to leave the tags on her fake flowers. The tags tore off easily. One was the ingredients in the plastic, I think. And the other was the price tag.

The plastic bouquet that I picked up for Mom on the spur of the moment cost $5.00. Not $4.97, as Walmart usually likes to label. The tag read $5.00.

You may or may not recall how Mom used to give me $5.00 all the time. Like when I met her at the bowling alley parking lot and handed her our leftover Chinese food, and the tabloids I had read the week before, and a box of Crunch 'N' Munch I picked up for her at Save A Lot. Or when we went to the movies and she wanted to pay for part of the boys' snacks. Or if she said she had taken my niece out to lunch, and wanted me to use that money to get The Pony fast food, to be fair. Or for spending money for one of the boys going on a school field trip. Always, always, always...$5.00.

Val will forever be the $5.00 daughter.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Back-of-the-Book Blurb Friday #10

Blog buddy Sioux is hosting Back-of-the-Book-Blurb Friday. I have 150 words to entice you to buy my fake book. You should. Because I struggled to fake-write my fake book this week. It was like all my creative juices had dried up. Turned to stone. As of 4:38 p.m., I still had nary an inkling of what I could do with that picture. Then it came to me. Like a rock tossed through a window with a note tied to it. But without the note. Just a rock that hit me in the head. Which I'm sure you can imagine, after reading my blurb, and fighting to get your hands on my fake book.

The Nanny that Rocks the Cradle

Nan was a hard-nosed little gal. Kept her nose to the grindstone, so it didn’t get out of joint. She kept it clean, and out of the air. Never stuck it where it wasn’t wanted. Her brother Bert was another story. He had a nose for trouble.

Nan thought she had Bert under control. He was in a permanent state of jump-readiness, just waiting for her to say how high, or point out which hoop. What Nan hadn’t counted on was Bert’s total disregard for the rules set in stone by their parents. Bert was constantly sneaking out of their glass house. He couldn’t wait to cast the first stone and kill two birds with it. Leaving no stone unturned to find a solution, Nan called SuperNanny Medusa.

It only took one look from SuperNanny Medusa to make Bert behave. Will Nan remain stoned for eternity as well? (148 words)


Fake Reviews For Val’s Fake Book

The Thinker…”Try as I might, I can't imagine a single redeeming quality in Thevictorian's fake book.”

Abe Lincoln, from His Memorial…”It's all I can do not to stand up and run away from this sorry piece of fake literature. I would hurl it into my fireplace rather than read it. The only good thing about it is its ability to provide more light with which to read a real book.”

Venus de Milo…”Pardon me if I don't applaud this fake book. I feel no love for Thevictorian's tale.”

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt…”If only we had bodies so we could run far, far away from this abomination of the written word! Thevictorian's fake book should be banished from the face of the earth.”

Plymouth Rock…”If I had seen Val Thevictorian's ancestors disembarking from the Mayflower, I would have pinched off a boulder and crushed them to prevent her very existence, and the future publication of this fake book.”

David…”I don't embarrass easily, but I feel nothing but embarrassment for Val Thevictorian. Does she not know that throngs of people point and laugh at this fake book, and her shortcomings as an author?"

Christ the Redeemer…”There is absolutely no redeeming value in Thevictorian's fake book. Even a translation to Portuguese would not help.”