Val has been busier than a one-armed bandit in a slot tournament with a free buy-in!
Getting rid of The Pony is quite time-intensive and costly. Oh, sure. He's got pretty close to a free ride his freshman year. But SOMEBODY has to show him the ropes. And SOMEBODY ELSE has got to keep track of expenditures. For tax purposes, you know. Even though the amount allowed will be balanced against the amount he receives. Can't let TurboTax go begging when it asks me those vital questions next March.
We all headed to Oklahoma for four days for The Pony's orientation camp. And last week, Hick and The Pony (with The Pony AT THE WHEEL) went back for his registration appointment. It took me several days after we returned to realize that even though Hick had told me he was using the debit card on gas and food, he was actually using THE CREDIT CARD. So...after I had meticulously recorded the receipts in the checkbook register (uh huh, no online banking for Val, who do you think she is, GENIUS?)...I discovered that there was no record of those purchases when checking the checking account with the automated phone system.
Silly me! I thought that perhaps it takes longer for those receipts to show up, all the way from Oklahoma. The wind comes sweeping down the plains there, you know. And maybe those winds mess with the empty air where the signals go out on the internet in the sky to keep track of purchases. Scramble them up, maybe. I'm not stupid! I know there's not a direct wire running from every gas station pump to my bank branch! But when, after a whole week, there was still no record...I asked Hick.
"Oh. I put them on the credit card. Except for the first two. The one in Backroads when we filled up to leave town, and the one in Joplin."
Uh huh. Those two had showed up in the checking account in a timely manner. So when Hick and The Pony departed on Thursday afternoon, I made sure Hick was going to be using just the credit card. He assured me that he was.
Val is good with her bills, you know. Send her one, and she pays it within a day or two. Now if you DON'T send her one, that's another matter. She doesn't go around obsessing over invisible bills. Sure, she might think, It's about time to get a bill for that, isn't it? But then she goes on with life, and sometimes Even Steven nudges her on the day something was due, and she does some back-checkbook investigatin', and calls up the non-billing entity and pays by phone and reminds them to send the bill the next month, by cracky, and hope the dead-mouse-smelling post office part-time replacement rural carrier doesn't lose it, or those Mailbox Row squatters don't take it out of EmBee.
Hick and The Pony left Oklahoma early Saturday morning, and returned Saturday evening. They texted updates at each stop. By the time they hit Genius Town, they were running an hour behind what Val expected. The Pony sent a text (of course Hick had taken over the wheel, what with it not being any fun to turn one's one-eyed head side to side to look at scenery whilst one was riding shotgun and not piloting a 73-mph vehicle).
"We stopped at the knife store. Going by to see Genius. Be home around 5:30."
We used to stop at the Case Knife Outlet Store regularly on our trips to Silver Dollar City, or to Joplin to bowling tournaments. And also at the Russell Stover factory outlet. Since Hick is not supposed to eat candy (even though they have sugar free versions there), we stopped that. And on the trip I went with them, Hick said the last times he'd been to the knife store on his way to safety meetings for work, they had nothing that interested him. Of course he wanted to drag The indifferent Pony through there.
So...Hick and The Pony eventually arrived home, and we ate pizza, and Hick put the giant box back in Frig II. Life went on. I heard The Pony's fall semester schedule. Made sure Hick had taken him to open an account at a local bank with the cash I sent with him. Heard Hick brag about getting a room in the same Holiday Inn Express where we had stayed, but for $31 cheaper. Uh huh. Because he walked in after 6:00 p.m., after telling ME to reserve them in advance with the option of getting our money back if we had to cancel. That's not rocket science.
But we're not here to laud selfless family man Hick for his money-saving ability, between that hotel room for Friday night, and the Mason jar bargain at Goodwill on Sunday.
Sunday night, after Hick and The Pony went to bed, so there were no distractions, I set about getting the finances in order. I called the credit card automated line to see if our last payment, which included thousands of dollars of reimbursed charges for Hick's European not-vacation to France and Germany, had been received. It had. And I also checked the new charges. You can't be too careful, you know, when flashing your credit card across the plains with those sweeping winds. Everything checked out except one. A charge of $307.16.
At first I thought that the dorm room bedding I had ordered for The Pony had been charged twice. But it was not 300 dollars. In fact, I had found a discount at retailmenot.com (Hick's not the only bargain-finder in Thevictorian household, you know), and because I ordered in a timely manner from receiving the college's BUY ME propaganda, it was even cheaper. Little did they know I had been searching for this bundle recently, having gone through the same process satisfactorily when Genius was a freshman.
All the credit card line would tell me about that charge was that it was $307.16 on Saturday July 2 at a home furnishing store. WTF? That COULD mean sheets and bedspread and dorm stuff, maybe. But I never got a double notice that it was being shipped. By now it was 1:00 a.m. Sunday night/Monday morning. No way was I going to try and talk to a real person. And the next "day" was July 4th. I figured I would be stewing about it until after the holiday.
Monday morning, as Hick was busy waking me up against my will by slamming doors and cabinets and bouncing on the bed as if on a trampoline to put on his socks...I told him of my fear that somebody had gotten the credit card numbers and used them somewhere in Oklahoma on Saturday.
"Oh. I bought a knife."
"A KNIFE? For $307.16? And you didn't tell me?"
"The Pony said he told you we stopped at the knife store."
"He didn't say you BOUGHT anything! You weren't going to tell me, were you? You were just going to let it come in on the credit card bill, and think I wouldn't notice? Where IS this knife?"
"Oh. I guess it's still out in The Pony's car."
"Where you were HIDING it from me!"
"Oh, Val. I wasn't hiding it."
"But neither of you bothered to tell me about it. You did that on purpose."
"No. I thought you knew. We stopped. And I bought a knife."
When I got up, there was a large shopping bag on Hick's kitchen chair, from Case Knives. I asked The Pony about that $307.16 knife.
"Actually, Dad bought THREE knives. Three knives out of a set of six. Because he didn't want to spend too much so you'd complain. I told you we stopped at the knife store."
"And you didn't tell me he bought something? He told you not to, didn't he?"
"No. You didn't ASK if he bought any knives. So of course I didn't tell you."
Something tells me The Pony is the kind of witness that lawyers like to call to the stand. And the kind of accomplice Hick likes to travel with.