Monday, October 31, 2016

Things That Go Dark in the Night

Here's your tale for Halloween.

Last week, Genius had a laptop malfunction. REE-REE-REE! Cue the stabby Psycho music. Okay. That's not the scary part. It was scary only for him, lover of electronics, never met a piece of technology he didn't cherish, computers as his future bread-and-butter. He tried his laptop one morning and the screen went black. Genius knows his way around a computer. Even an Apple. He could not figure out the problem. He was strapped for time, doing the majority of his work for a big computer science project that was due in several days in the college computer lab. I asked why he didn't use his desktop at home, but he said it ran Windows, and he needed one that ran something else, I caught "Linux" and the other I'd never heard of. The lab has a couple of them.

A few days after the fiasco, Genius was getting ready to take his precious gewgaw to the Apple store for a diagnosis. At that time, one of his housemates confessed to having used Genius's laptop (with permission) and accidentally (one would hope) spilled coffee on the keyboard and wiped it off. Genius said he volunteered to pay for damages, but Genius did not think he had the money. Probably not. Apple opened it up and saw that it was liquid damage, and said they would replace one part (the name escapes me, because I am not really on speaking terms with technology) for $1800.

Genius (meaning his college fund, which I dole out as need be) paid $2400 for that laptop new, two years ago. He was not about to fork over that kind of money, so asked me to give him the balances in his college savings account and CD so he could figure out if he could afford another laptop. He plans to sell parts of the other one and recoup about 3/4 of his expense.

I don't carry that info around in my noggin, but I had just re-apportioned the two accounts when the CD came due the first of October. I had the receipts for the transfer and new CD right there on the kitchen counter. I was standing there in the corner where the sink part of the countertop joins the stove part of the countertop. I turned to yell over my shoulder to Hick in the living room La-Z-Boy.

"Genius has $##### left in his account, and $##### in the CD. That CD is down to the original amount that my mom opened it with for college, when he was just a toddler."

The lights dimmed. I was not happy about that. A couple times that week, the power had gone off and come right back on. We have surge suppressors for the major electronics, but I have to reset the microwave clock, and it messes up the clock on my nightstand, and the DISH receiver takes a while to reset itself. I turned and moved to the cutting block, the better for my complaints to fall on Hick's deaf ears in the living room.

"GREAT! The power better not go off! I still have blogs to write! That would be just my luck, get supper done with and then no internet."

"I don't know what you're carrying on about. Nothing happened. The power is on."

"For now! Didn't you see the lights dim? It's STILL dim in here."

Hick came to the kitchen. Probably for evidence to prove me crazy. Which wouldn't take much, lately.

"Here's your problem. You've got a light out." He pointed to one of the two round lights recessed in the kitchen ceiling. The one at the end over the sink, where I had been standing.

"Oh. That explains the dimness." I left the kitchen and headed for the bathroom before descending to my dark basement lair for the night, while Hick peered up at the light to see what kind he needed to buy on the way home from work the next day to replace it.

"Huh. Now it's back on."

Yep. And it's remained on, unless I turn it off. Nary a flicker. Just like all the other days and nights when it has worked like a charm.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Retired Val People Problems

Hick left me on Saturday.

For those of you jumping up, clasping your hands together and shaking them over your head, shouting, "YES! YES! It's about time!" I hate to disappoint you...but it was only for another International Man of Mystery tour. Of Sweden. I think he's inspecting a quarter-of-a-million dollar machine that keeps the bands of steel straight so they don't sag in the middle when passing through another machine to be formed into knife blades and saw blades. This is a new machine, just manufactured, and Hick has materials being shipped there to run through it and see if it works for his company. Except, as of Friday evening, the materials were stalled at the border, in customs.

You'd think I'd know more of the details. Just shows you how much blog material I miss out on when I tune out Hick as we sit on the porch in the evenings giving the dogs their snack. Anyhoo...I know Hick's itinerary, because I told him to text it to me. He was flying from St. Louis to Chicago, then Madrid, then Arlanda, Sweden, and from there taking a 3-4 hour train ride to Mora, Sweden, where he will test the machine. He doesn't have the power to buy it or anything, like some of the used-machine auctions they have sent him to. He just makes the decision, and gives the details to his company president.

When he returns, Hick will take the train again from Mora to Arlanda, but this time in the daylight. Then he will fly to Heathrow, then to Charlotte NC, then to St. Louis. I asked him to take some pictures this time, of actual scenic sights, not of highway off-ramps and the inside of hotel bathrooms. He said he would try.

Anyhoo...this is NOT all about Hick, it's all about VAL! Hick left home at 9:00 Saturday morning. He had only been gone 90 minutes when my world came crashing down. By 10:30, I was on my way to town. But I wasn't! Because as soon as I turned onto the blacktop county road down by EmBee's mailbox condo, a chime went off on T-Hoe's dash, and a warning flashed.


Well. Even VAL knows not to turn off the engine while driving. So I proceeded to the next driveway where I could turn around, which was at the Best family compound (those fast-driving fools) and headed right back home. I called Hick on the way. He had just gotten to Lambert Airport, and found his check-in surprisingly simple this time. He said he could have left home later. Which meant he could have spent more time with ME. Nah. That's okay. He couldn't have solved my T-Hoe problem because I wouldn't have left until he did, anyway.

"I have no oil pressure in T-Hoe. An alarm went off saying I have NO oil pressure! And to turn off the engine! The gauge goes from 0 to 80. At the top of the gauge is 40. Right now, it's hovering around 20."

"Well, you have SOME pressure. You can probably drive it."

"Uh. I don't think so! I'm not getting stuck in town. I'm taking it home and getting the Acadia. Is there gas in it?"

"I'm sure there is. We haven't driven it since the casino. There's probably enough to get you to town."


"Why do you do that? I always fill up at half a tank! You NEVER have gas in your vehicles. That's why you ran out and had to walk that time with HOS and The Veteran, when they were not even 10 years old yet."

"There should be enough to get you to a gas station. It's only five miles to town."

"Okay. I just like T-Hoe better. Can I get some oil and put in and then drive it?"

"If that's all that's wrong with it. Get some 5W-30. When you lift the hood, the oil will be on the passenger side."

"By the time I get back from town, it should be cool enough to reach in there, right?"

"Yeah. It'll be fine."

So...I got in A-Cad, backed out of the cramped side of the garage, surprisingly enough filled with some of Hick's junk, and started up the driveway. Even though we got this car last fall, I save it in the garage. Just because. I'm accustomed to T-Hoe, and don't want to give T-Hoe to Hick. So I don't know where all the doodads are, and the radio stations that Hick and The Pony set on their trips to Oklahoma make it hard for me to find mine. The shifter is on the console, not on the column. BUT it still smells NEW!

I had just pulled out on the blacktop county road when I saw a warning light flash on the dash. No chimes from A-Cad. I guess this wasn't a matter of auto life and death.


Oh, it wasn't just ONE tire that was low. It was all four freakin' tires! I have told Hick again and again, every time I ride in A-Cad (okay, so that's not very often, but I DO tell him every time) that the tires look low. And Hick always says, "The tires are fine! They'll expand as they warm up while we're driving." Uh huh. Those tires are supposed to be inflated to 35 pounds. And now they were at 25, 26, 26, 26.

So...I had to go get gas. Then pull over to the air compressor hose. And of course it just so happened that the valves were lined up at the first tire I aired down at the 6:00 position, then the others at 5:00, 7:00, and blessedly 9:00. Which meant that I had to wave my ample buttocks in the breeze for passersby to gape at while I stood on my head trying to fit that hose's metal end on the valve. Which was not easy with the design of the hubcap thing which prevented me from aligning it flat without a massive struggle on all but the valve in the 9:00 position. Which meant that I let a bunch of air out, trying to put air in. It's not like I had a pressure gauge. It's not like I had The Pony to put in the air, while I sat in the car and watched the dash to tell him when it was enough. I did pretty good, though. The tires ended up with 33, 32, 35, and 33. Good enough for now.

I bought a quart of Pennzoil 5W-30 and a long narrow yellow funnel. The cashier even tried to tell me that they had paper funnels that were cheaper, but I figured I could spring for $1.99. Once home, I got T-Hoe's hood up (thank goodness the hydraulic lift thingy worked, and I didn't have to prop it open with a crutch like the back hatch several years ago).

Did you know that a Tahoe engine is surprisingly expansive under the hood? I had to stand at the side and lean over at my armpits and try to grab the oil cap. Forget about the dipstick. I tried and tried, but it was stuck. After three tries, I got the cap off the oil holder. I jammed in my expensive funnel and opened up the Pennzoil. I poured in half of it and nothing overflowed. So I closed everything up and waited for Hick to call me from the airport. He said I could pour the rest of it in. So I went back out and did that and drove it up the driveway. No alarm. The oil pressure hovered at 45.

Today I drove T-Hoe to town. The oil pressured stayed around 45. Hick had sent HOS a text to come by and check on it. HOS got the dipstick out and said there was NOTHING on it. HOS said he was surprised that I was able to drive it, because I didn't have enough oil, and that I probably needed at least two more quarts. He searched the BARn for some, but lately Hick has been taking the vehicles out to get their oil changed. I told HOS I was headed to Walmart tomorrow, and he said I should be able to make there and back, but if I heard a lot of noise from the lifters, to shut it off. And to call him if I needed anything.

You know, I'm an old retired lady, and I don't especially want to become Val Thevictorian, Auto Mechanic. When I told Hick about the low tires on A-Cad, and the fact that there was barely 1/8 of a tank of gas in it, and how hard it was to reach T-Hoe's oil hole...Hick said, "I'm sorry you have to deal with this."

So there's that.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

And Now, the Rest of the Whole Shocking Story

A couple of days ago I shared with you the tale of how the USPS ripped me off for $5.00 with a bait-and-switch style stamp sale. I asked for two books of stamps, and Federal Wench threw two SHEETS of stamps on the counter, and ended up charging me for them, rather than the two BOOKS I asked for instead.

Friday morning, I headed to town to inquire about a refund of the rightful change I was due because of their error. You can probably imagine how that went. But I'm going to tell you anyway! Oh, and there was a weirdo encounter that almost prevented me from getting there, but that's a story for another day.

I wanted to get to town early, because you never know when the folks at the dead-mouse-smelling post office are going to close up shop with their big metal sliding window-shade thingy and go to lunch. Literally. You never know, because it's always changing, and taped to the door and the partition below the counter on printer paper.

I got there at 10:45, which is early for me. A lady older than me and more crippled-up than me (and probably with more insurance than me) parked right behind T-Hoe and beat me to the steps. I think her route from car door to dead-mouse-smelling post office door was shorter, because I should have been able to take her. As it were, I gimped up the concrete steps behind her, with a death grip on the flat black metal railing with my left hand. I didn't want her to think I was stalky or anything. But I was not walking extra to use the right-hand rail on the other side, and I couldn't help it that she was slower with her one-leg stair-climbing technique than I.

Anyhoo...that old gal veered left to check her post office box, and I veered right to approach the counter. Nobody was in front of me, and nobody was behind me. Just Val. And an empty counter. So I tapped the silver metal bell where the sign taped behind it said, "Ring Bell For Service." I always hate to do that, because it makes me feel like the workers will resent me as an impatient butthole. So I barely tapped it. One time. For a subdued hello...I'm out here...when you're not busy...ding. Not an obnoxious GET OUT HERE AND DO YOUR JOB, YOU LAZY PIECE OF CRAP...DING!

A girl came out of the back room. She was not the one who ripped me off for $5.00. She was younger, shorter, and with long smooth brown hair rather than a frizzy brassy perm. Kind of...if I may say...mousy.

"May I help you?"

"Oh...probably not. You're not the one I talked to yesterday. I bought these two books of stamps, but she charged me for two SHEETS of stamps that she had laid out at first. I told her I didn't want them, so she got me these snowbirds, but still charged me for the breast cancer sheets. I'm sure she just forgot. I was also telling her about a missing letter to my son in Oklahoma."

See what I did there? I acted not-pissed-off. Like it was just an honest mistake, and I was giving them the chance to make it right, and resolve their inventory. When I held out my receipt and two books of snowbird stamps, I could see Mousy's demeanor change. Now I was a problem customer. She got that look of fear in her eyes, like I might jump over the counter and slice her jugular with the edge of my snowbirds.

"The lady you talked to just went to the bank. She should be back in a minute. I'll let you talk to her."

"How long would that be?"

"Oh, not very long. She only went to the bank."

"Yes, but you'll be closing for lunch at 11:00, I see there on your sign. I don't think she'll be back before then, and I can't wait an hour. I just don't think I should have to pay for the special stamps that I didn't get."

"Well, all of our stamps are non-refundable."

"I know that you could check your inventory and see that you have two extra sheets of breast cancer stamps, and are lacking two books of snowbirds."

THEN Mousy lit up like a freakin' jack-o-lantern, a smile from ear to ear, all high and mighty.

"All of our stamps are non-refundable."

"So I guess I'm out five dollars."

With that, I took my leave. Didn't shout, "EFF YOU EFFING EFFERS!" Or even, "Darn you. Darn you all to heck." Because, you see, she was obviously following policy, her livelihood depending on how well she remained firm under the thumb of THE MAN.

I spent five years working in a state unemployment benefits office. Val definitely knows her way around a public employee standoff. Could I have waited to talk to Federal Wench when she got back from the bank? Sure. It's not like my life revolves around a time clock now. But what would be the point? Nobody goes to the bank 15 minutes before lunch with the plan to be back right at the time lunch starts. She was stretching that bank run into lunch time. For sure. And why would I kill an hour so Mousy could tell Federal Wench the whole story, and then both of them come out when they re-opened after lunch and deny my rightful $5.00 change while snickering behind their jack-o-lantern smiles?

Nope. I limped myself down the steps and drove away, bemoaning the loss of a scratch-off ticket. Or five 44 oz Diet Cokes from Orb K.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Back-of-the-Book-Blurb Friday #32 "Just in the Prime of Nick"

Blog buddy Sioux is hosting Back-of-the-Book-Blurb Friday. I have 150 words to convince you to fake-buy my fake book. Val Thevictorian is STILL on the biography bandwagon this week. That makes it a trifecta. A hat trick. A troika. Her third biography in so many weeks. Real people are just so fascinating! And easier to write about than trying to find a creative bone at the Goodwill so she can at least have ONE creative bone in her body, and make up some stuff.

Go find your fake-mad-money that you stashed in the bottom of Grandpa's cigar box, and fake-fork it over for the latest Val fake tome to add to your collection. C'mon! You don't want to come up short, with a hole on your shelf, forever searching eBay for the one that you missed.

Just in the Prime of Nick:
The Day Sal Thethicktorian's Head Exploded

Nick Thethictorian has been living the life of a charmed simpleton. For the past 26 years, his wife Sal has seen to his every need. Nick doesn't even have to remember to breathe! Sal got him a special machine that he straps on at night that blows oxygen down his trachea.

Nick has a hobby. He builds a very special shed for Sal, to show his appreciation, to pledge his undying love. To emphasize that he thinks Sal shouldn't have to look at the messes he makes anymore. Or hear his excuses and blatant untruths. Shouldn't have to speak sharply to him to correct his bad habits.

Unfortunately, Nick is not a welder by trade. He has no idea that a simple release of flatulence in the presence of an acetylene torch can make Sal's shed-head explode. When Sal blows her top, will she put Nick six feet under? (149 words)


Fake Reviews for Val’s Fake Book

The Hindenburg…"Oh, the insanity! Thevictorian should never have fake-written this fake book. If she had a single spark of inspiration, she would burst into a conflagration the likes of which the world has never seen."

Meteor That Extincted the Dinosaurs…Anyone who reads this fake book will soon lose all signs of life. Thevictorian is like a dark pall upon the land, her cold, cold fake-writing style chilling her fake-readers to the bone, taking away their very will to find sustenance for survival.” 

10,000 Monkeys Typing on 10,000 Keyboards for 10,000 Years…”This fake book deserves to have our crap thrown at it. NO! We should be throwing THIS FAKE BOOK! Collectively, given enough time, we could have fake-written a better fake book than Thevictorian.”

Trashcan Man…”Bumpty, bumpty, bump. A funny thing happened on the way to Cibola. I read this fake book by Val Thevictorian, and it was so bad that it made me pee my pants. This fake book is a bigger bomb than a nuclear warhead.” 

Fat Man and Little Boy…”'NEVER AGAIN! Thevictorian should be banned unilaterally from fake-writing any more fake books! What a bomb!"

Krakatoa, East of Java…”I was telling my buddy Mount Tambora just the other day, 'This new fake book by Val Thevictorian makes me want to blow my top!' And do you know what he said, after I lent it to him and he fake-read it for his own self? He said, 'This author leaves me cold.'"

Thursday, October 27, 2016

THIS is Why People Don't Trust the Government!

Something is rotten in the dead-mouse-smelling post office. It's a rodent all right. Not necessarily one with four legs.

Today I had to stop by the dead-mouse-smelling post office over a missing mail issue. (I'm not even going into that here, but it's on my supersecret blog tonight.) I also wanted to purchase two books of forever stamps. I used to have The Pony run in and get them for me, but as we all know, The Pony has forsaken his loving mother for a college education.

"What can I do for you?"

"I'd like two books of forever stamps."

This was not the regular postmistress to whom I am accustomed. Not a cool middle-aged blond, in tailored clothing. She was a bit younger. Tan from a bottle, brassy hair perm-fried. A bit more brusque, as revealed during her interaction with, and subsequent brush-off of the sweet old lady customer ahead of me.

Federal Wench reached under the counter and tossed two sheets of stamps on top. She punched in the purchase on her register or meter or whatever they want to call it. SHEETS! I had asked for books. These were big flat sheets, the Breast Cancer Research stamps.

I have nothing against breast cancer research. But I had asked for my stamps in BOOKS. Not sheets. A couple of times when I sent The Pony to do my bidding, he came back with stamps I did not like.

"Why did you get THOSE? I told you to get flags."

"But Mom...she didn't give me a choice. That's what she gave me, and took the money."

Okay. So The Pony was not the most assertive customer. But Val wants what Val wants. I knew that I wanted my stamps in BOOKS, because I slide them in between the money in my checkbook. No way were these SHEETS going to fold up and fit in there. So I made my request clear.

"Oh. I wanted BOOKS of stamps. Those are too big. Don't you have any BOOKS?"

Federal Wench heaved a heavy sigh. She foraged under the middle section of counter and threw out two foldable BOOKS of stamps.

"We have Songbirds."

"That's fine. I'll take them."

"Twenty-four dollars."

I was a bit taken aback. Seems like I used to hand The Pony two twenties, just in case, but that he always came back with two books of stamps, a twenty, and some change. Oh, well. Maybe the prices went up again. I handed over two twenties, and stuffed the stamps and change in my shirt pocket, along with the receipt, and went on to tussle with Federal Wench about my missing letter.

By the time I left, stewing with dissatisfaction, possibly muttering under my breath, I was still not thinking about the stamps. I noticed when I got home and started typing up my revenge-post, and looked up the two kinds of stamps.


Those Breast Cancer Research stamps are 60 cents apiece! Not the 47 cents apiece of the typical forever stamp like the songbirds. I was a victim of bait-and-switch! Federal Wench rang up the expensive stamps, then sold me the regular stamps! I had been overcharged by $5.20. Had Federal Wench not been so eager to tell me there's no way to find out about my missing letter (which I believe is disinformation), she might have corrected the price of the stamps before taking my money.

Do you think Federal Wench was presumptuous in upselling me the pricier stamps?

Tomorrow, I'm going back. WITH the receipt showing that I paid for two sheets of Breast Cancer Research stamps, and the actual two books of Songbirds in Snow that I was given.

What do you think my chances are of getting a refund?

Even convenience stores can check inventory against receipts, you know.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

I Think Hick is Trying to Put Me Out of His Misery

Remember back when I was pretty sure Hick was trying to kill me? I'm getting that feeling again.

Let the record show that since The Pony left home, forsaking his loving mother for COLLEGE, so far, far away that even her helicopter can't hover...the job of taking the trash dumpster to the end of the long, long driveway, and bringing it back down the next day, has fallen upon Val Thevictorian.

Puppy Jack has calmed a bit, and only jumps up on my legs a couple times each direction. In addition, I have added two more circuits of the driveway as a bit of exercise and brief respite from my dark basement lair. Every evening for the past month or so, I have joined the world of the tree pollen to take a hike. A hike that lasts a mere 15 minutes, but still a hike. The dogs come running. They celebrate like it's Mardi Gras. Without the embarrassing bead shenanigans, of course.

Every day, between 4:00 and 5:00, I hit the gravel. The exception being that time I was sick due to the Casey's clerk hand-coughing before giving me my pizza and change with her disease-riddled meathooks. Even though I just this week got over that 3-week crud, I only missed two days of walking, during the height of the lung congestion. Those two days fell upon a Saturday and Sunday. I was right back out the next Monday, on wobbly knees at a snail's pace, but making the effort.

That first day back was torture! "Oh, I'm so out of shape! This seems 10 times harder than it was Friday, and I'm pretty sure I had a raging fever then. But this is worse. Maybe I'm debilitated from my illness. The allergy index WAS in the orange zone. All that gunk in my lungs is making it hard to get a good breath. But why do I feel like I'm underwater? The lungs shouldn't affect my LEGS! This is SO hard!" But I kept with it. It wasn't any easier on Tuesday. And on Wednesday, when I had to pull the dumpster, it was excessively taxing.

I told Hick how weak I felt. Like I was walking on sand, if each grain of sand was an inch in diameter. He just said, "Huh. Well, you've been sick."

"It's almost like you did something to the driveway. It's not packed down any more."

"I didn't do nothin' to the driveway.'

Yet every day was as hard as the next for me to walk on it. I wasn't getting any better. But I kept walking. Surely I was just out of shape from being sick, like my loving husband suggested. It only took me a day and a week, but then I saw it.

No, not that cute little long-fellow standing guard. I'm talking about the ridge that's casting a shadow. Like an off-center center line down the highway of my driveway. In case you've never lived around gravel roads, let the record show that they settle. Tires make ruts that are pretty much just dust, while the gravel shifts off to the side, or stays in the middle. Grass grows up through the middle where tires don't tread. It makes a kind of flat mat of vegetation that lays undisturbed. In fact, that is the area I choose to walk on much of the length, because there are no rocks slipping around under my soles.

Here you see that my humped-up vegetation mat is gone. All the gravel is at the same height, except for that ridge. Which did not rise up by its own self.

So...I finally realized that Hick had been less than truthful with me. Every day I upped my interrogation tactics. AND HICK'S STORY CHANGED! I caught him in his web of lies!

After applying more pressure, about how I KNEW something was different about the driveway, Hick said...well...he had driven the Gator on it. I countered that he has done that before without messing up the driveway.

So Hick said that one of HOS's (Hick's Oldest Son) daughters had driven the Gator on it, too. I professed that it's not like she was fishtailing a stock car on it, throwing dirt clods out of the curves. A Gator shouldn't mess up a driveway.

THEN Hick said that he had also driven the lawnmower over it. I pointed out that he does this every time he mows, to get from one side of the yard to the other, and it does not disturb the driveway.

AND THEN Hick said that he had mowed the grass strip in the middle of the driveway. Which didn't make much sense, since it was more of a matted-down lichen kind of vegetation, and did not grow tall like a regular lawn, and was not even high enough for the blades to nick it.

Uh huh. Too much evasiveness. I swear Hick used the blade on the driveway. Whether by tractor or by lawnmower, which came with all kinds of attachments for the $1700 he spent on it without telling me. Problem is…where it used to be a rut on each side, almost down to dust, it’s now all loosey goosey with gravel. It’s hard to keep from turning an ankle or having a knee wobble on that stuff now. Oh, and where I used to walk in the middle on the grassy part…there are now odd rocks there the whole length of the driveway.

AND on Sunday, Hick tried to tell me another whopper. I pointed out that I KNEW he did something, because rocks don’t lay on top of the grass and grow up as it does. YES THEY DO, Hick insisted. How do you THINK rocks get there? Um…the rocks are there, and the grass grows up through the cracks. He was having none of it, insisting that grass lifts up the rocks as it grows. I don’t know what kind of a 15th-rate physics teacher he thinks I was, but grass does not lift rocks as it grows!

I'm pretty sure Hick is at least plotting for me to pull up lame. You've heard what they do to horses with that problem, haven't you?

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Just When You Thought Those Creepy News Clowns Had Gone Away...

Hick is nothing if not timely in his shenanigans. He left for Goodwill on Sunday evening, and was a bit secretive upon return. By secretive, I mean that he did not come up the driveway and park his 1980 Olds Toronado back under the carport where it's been taking up The Pony's rightful parking space since its construction. No. I guess he thought he could avoid my prying eyes. Ain't no way to hide my prying eyes. The Eagles were going to do a song about them, but switched the lyrics at the last minute.

Anyhoo...I was sitting on the front porch pew post-walk, watching Puppy Jack and my Sweet, Sweet Juno frolic in the front yard as the sun sank behind the trees lining the row of sinkholes. In the same instant, both dogs ceased their scuffling, and sat up. Looked toward the gravel road. And took off barking toward the BARn field. I heard tires on gravel, and waited for Hick to come up the driveway. A few minutes later, I saw movement through the treeline. He had turned into the BARn field (let the record show that there is NOT a road there, only a shallow ditch to drive through, and grass) and coasted down the slope to park in front of the BARn. Huh.

After a while, Hick turned the Toronado around and went back up through the field, then to the driveway, and down it to park under the carport. He walked over his brick sidewalk to join me on the porch.

"What were you hiding?"

"I wasn't hiding nothing."

"Why did you go to the BARn?"

"So I didn't have to carry my stuff over there."

"What did you get at Goodwill that you didn't want me to see?"

"Nothing. Alls I got was this:"

"What even IS that?"

"It's a clown! A clown on a tricycle!"

"A clown? What's that Russian hat for?"

"That flaps up and spins around when he rides the tricycle."

Whatever. It doesn't look like a clown to me. And it doesn't look like it would be very heavy to carry over to the BARn.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Backroads is Flowing With the Milk of Human Kindness

I don't know whether to hawk the wares of my proposed handbasket factory due to signs of the approach of the apopadopalyspe...or send out refunds to those who already advance-purchased a handbasket, since it may not be needed.

Today my encounters with fellow denizens of Backroads were ALL POSITIVE! Four out of six interactees went above and beyond expectations by SMILING and offering assistance! That must be some kind of record. The ODDS, people! The ODDS!

First up was a little old white-haired lady with a wiry perm and granny glasses. Though she was more likely a great-granny or a great-great. I had just parked my full cart at T-Hoe's rear on the Walmart parking lot. I had the space to the right of a cart corral. That way I don't have nincompoops jamming their hoopties up next to me so that I can't get T-Hoe's door open to get back in. The hatch was up, held by a good strong hydraulic thingy that didn't match the other side, but was far better than the crutch Hick gave me to prop it open for a couple weeks before he got it fixed a few years ago.

"Do you need any help?"

I was startled! I had seen the LOWHL push her cart into the corral. And now she was offering to HELP ME!

"Oh, thank you! But I'm fine. Just putting all the cold stuff together. I have a bit of a drive."

"All right. You have a nice day."

"You too. Thank you so much."

How run-down and weak and unhealthy and decrepit must Val look to be offered help by a LOWHL who must have been pushing 85? I suppose she was only being nice. I wasn't having any trouble. Just picking up bags and setting them in the car.

Second was the checker at the Casey's where I get gas for T-Hoe. She handed back my change, and dropped two dimes between the back of her register and a display of muffins. She could have let me fish them out from under the wires snaking along the counter. But no. She leaned her short little self over and stuck her Olive Oyl arms in there and groped around until she snagged them.

"Here's your change! Sorry! I didn't mean to throw it at you!"

"That's okay! Thank you."

Third was right outside on the parking lot, at the pump next to me.

"Oh, did you need to use this? A dirty bird hit my windshield, and I had to clean it off."

"No, thanks. I had a hickory nut hit mine the other day, but my windshield was fine. It scared me, though. It was like when a truck shoots a rock out from under its tire at you!"

"Oh, yes! That's always scary! I'll put his back, then. You have a nice day."

"And you too!"

Fourth was the guy who rang up my 44 oz Diet Coke from the new convenience store that The Pony and I kept hoping would be open before school was out in May. It's not far from Casey's, but I'd made a trip out to my bank first, and was on the way back home then, and didn't plan to go into Backroads proper to get my magical elixir from the gas station chicken store. This convenience store has really good Diet Coke, but it's out of my way for an everyday trip.

I handed the clerk two dollars for my $1.26 purchase. And he gave me back THREE QUARTERS!

"Thank you. Come again."

"Thanks. You have a nice day."

Yep. That clerk dude gave me an extra ONE CENT! He was so nice that it didn't even bother me that I had been expecting those four pennies and two dimes for future correct change for a gas station chicken store 44 oz Diet Coke.

I'm almost afraid to leave the house tomorrow. Even Steven might be striving to restore equilibrium.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Hills Are Alive With the Essence of HICKery

One thing about living in the're exposed to HICKiness on a daily basis. And I'm not just talking about my own personal Hick. Oh, he leads the pack right now, of course.

This morning (and by morning, I mean at noon:15) I opened the front door to look over towards Hick's Shackytown and see what he was up to. He had mentioned putting a roof on his new freight car shack, but I know it already had a roof, so maybe he was just waterproofing it. Anyhoo...that requires Hick on a ladder, which is for sure a marriage made in not-heaven. He gets dizzy when he tilts his head, even though he (and by he, I mean our insurance provider) paid a fortune for that revolutionary treatment several years ago of hanging him upside down and vibrating his skull. Yep. I know you're as shocked as I was that it didn't work.

Anyhoo...I looked out and saw nary a Hick in sight. Just his car parked on Shackytown Road, and Puppy Jack over by the BARn field, looking my way, trying to sniff on the breeze whether I was holding a paper plate stocked with treats for him and my SWEET, SWEET Juno. Of course he didn't come running, because the air was filled with the scent of HICKory smoke. So I called Hick on his cell phone.

"Where are you? Do you want anything from town?"

"Burning my brush pile. No. I ate those two legs and two wings in the refrigerator."

"When? I didn't see any evidence of that."

"You must have been in the shower. Just now. I brought it over here."

"WHAT? What did you do with the bones?"

"I gave them to Juno. You said Jack could'nt have any."

"How fair is THAT? Jack didn't get anything?"

"I tore off a little piece of meat and gave it to him."

"What are you doing today?"

"I have a little more work to do on my shed. Then I might drain part of the water out of the pool. I might take a ride. Why?"

"Because I'm sure you stink like smoke. I don't want you sitting on the furniture watching football, or driving my new car while you stink."

"I'll probably take the Oldsmobile."

"Okay. I'm going to town."

The thing about HICKory smoke is that it smells great on grilled meat, but not so much on upholstery.

On the way to town, I was almost head-onned by a jacked-up white Ford F350 with those side mirrors that telescope out. I had just crested a little hill in front of the house [FLASHBACK ALERT: where I saw a big bag of dogfood and stopped to make not-driving-yet Genius go pick it up. I knew Hick would be proud of us for finding free stuff along the road. Obviously, this giant bag of dry dogfood had bounced off the back of somebody's truck, and was laying there by the ditch, free for the scavenging. Genius trotted up the road to grab it while I sat with T-Hoe backed into the last turnaround driveway before the low water bridge in flood stage. WHOOPSIE! Genius grabbed the obviously empty bag, and the hounds of not-heaven shot baying from two houses. I've never seen that boy move so fast. He hauled his nearly-nipped butt back into T-Hoe with a sarcastic, "Thanks, Mom."

Anyhoo...I had just crested that little hill, and saw the Death Truck bearing down on me. It was a short straight stretch of unmarked blacktop. He still had time to move from the center of the road back to his side. But NO! Death Truck continued onto MY side of the pavement. That's dirty pool. I should be entitled to half the road! The half on my side. There was nowhere to pull off. Even the ditch wouldn't get me off the road completely. So I honked. That's what horns are for on automobiles, right? To warn other drivers?

Death Truck finally got the message, and whipped back over out of my unmarked territory just in the nick of time. Head-on crash averted. Sideswipe narrowly avoided. Whew!

But THEN do you know what happened? There I was, past that demon Death Truck, counting my blessings that I still had my life and my wheels and a 44 oz Diet Coke in my future...when Death Truck HONKED!

That's right! Already past me. Nothing in his way. Death Truck HONKED! Just to be a butthole, I imagine. Like I was in the wrong for getting him back on his own side of the road to escape a manslaughter charge.

You know what? EFF that EFFING EFFER!

Thank goodness Louis Armstrong came on the radio with "Wonderful World" to sooth the savage Val.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Boxcar Hicky

Okay. So "Boxcar Hicky" doesn't have the same ring to it as *Boxcar Willie. But it fits. For those of you wondering about the latest construction project going on over in Hick's's a shed made to display train memorabilia, from Thomas the Tank Engine to a Lionel clock with moving freight cars.

Here it is after the start of construction last weekend, from Monday evening.

I can see the shape of a freight car. Not that I'm a former hobo or canned food vigilante like Idgie Threadgoode. I've never ridden the rails. But I HAVE sat in traffic at a railroad crossing, waiting for a train to go by. So imagine my surprise when Hick, after telling me he was going to paint his freight car shack today, sent me THIS:

Um. I thought freight cars were brown. Reddish brown. I know they come in green and yellow and red and other hues. But most of them around here are reddish brown. Missouri Pacific freight cars. So...I interrogated Hick on the front porch this evening after he returned from Goodwill with a questionable find (more on that another day), and he said that since the wood soaks up so much paint, he put the white on first. It took five gallons. He's looking for something the color he painted the chicken house. Which is kind of reddish brown.

HOS (Hick's Oldest Son) works for the railroad. He is getting authentic stickers for Hick to apply to the sides once this train shack is done. I'm pretty sure he's buying them with Hick money, or they are being given to him as a perk. I can't imagine him risking a good job like that to fancy up a Hick shack. I haven't asked, but I'm pretty sure this one will have a sliding door.

I'll keep you updated on the progress. Contrary to what you might think, Hick LIKES for me to write about him! He doesn't care what. He's like those kids who want attention, even if it's not the good kind.

*You may have heard of Boxcar Willie. We had an in-person encounter with him once. But that's a story for another day.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Back-of-the-Book-Blurb Friday #31 "A Boy Named Huge"

Blog buddy Sioux is hosting Back-of-the-Book-Blurb Friday. I have 150 words to convince you to fake-buy my fake book. Val Thevictorian is still on the biography bandwagon this week. Or is she OFF the wagon? Her new fake book is the story of a guy who's bigger than life. Literally. Go get the combination for your wall safe, swing that picture away from the vault, and dig out some fake money for this week's fake book. Because Val doesn't take checks, and she doesn't accept American Express.

A Boy Named Huge:
A Young Man's Strange Erotic Journey From Bemidji to Branson

Huge is pretty sure he has a different dad than his brother Sue. For as long as he can remember, Sue has been fighting for respect, while no one ever messes with Huge. And Huge has more ladies than he can shake Ever since Sue ran into his daddy at an old saloon in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, last July, Huge has wanted to find his own flesh and blood.

Huge leaves his hometown of Bemidji, Minnesota, in search of his roots. It's not easy. Huge sometimes makes ends meet by playing Two-Hand Monte with local yokels. He can't stay at a location long. Townspeople board up their windows in an effort to keep out Huge's flatulence, and shoo him on to the next town.

Will Huge ever find out who his father is? Will he be able to earn a respectable living playing the world's largest fiddle in Branson, Missouri? (150 words)


Fake Reviews for Val’s Fake Book

Greg Brady…"As a former Big Man on Campus, and having performed in Branson myself, I was excited to read about the life of a boy named Huge. Okay, the title is what really drew me in. I give Thevictorian two thumbs up for this fake bio."

Alice, the Brady Family's Housekeeper…I can only dream that my boyfriend Sam the Butcher had been a little more like Huge. Something tells me this guy can really deliver the meat! I already had to buy my second copy of Thevictorian's fake book, because I wore out my first one, reading it every night at bedtime.” 

Marcia Brady…”He's no Davy Jones, but Huge is kind of cute. I'm glad HE never hit me in the nose with a football! I am writing an essay on this biography, trying to win a contest. It's a pretty good book, I guess.”

Jan Brady…”I wish somebody would write a book about my boyfriend, George Glass. Maybe Val Thevictorian can do that for me. IF I can find George's phone number. Then I'll show everybody that George is real. So fake-buy this fake book, because I need Thevictorian to be a household name when George's biography comes out!” 

Cindy Brady…”'Big-man talk, big-man talk, it's a wonder you can walk!' Said nobody to Huge. Ever. I don't like to read much, but this fake book empowered me to stand up for myself. Even if I can never stand as tall as Huge."

Peter Brady…”I wonder how Huge sounded before his voice changed. I bet he never got fired from a bicycle shop. AND I bet he ate a lot of pork chops and applesause. I've only read the first chapter so far, but I recommend you get this fake book, because if my dad can buy 9 fake copies, the least you can do is fake-buy one."

Bobby Brady…”I could have sold a lot more hair tonic if I took Huge door-to-door with me! He could have played Two-Hand Monte with my customers, too. A win for both of us. Get this fake book! It shows you how to make money quick."

Carol Brady…”This was a fascinating character study. We all need a little Huge in our life. Imagine how much Wesson Oil that guy would go through in a week! I could have made a name for myself and stopped being a housewife, had I only found this guy sooner, to send Wesson stock shooting through the roof. Get this fake book! If only to dream of lost opportunities.”

Mike Brady..."I really wish I hadn't kicked the bucket before this fake book came out. I think I would have really liked getting to know Huge. He seems like he had a lot to offer."

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Not Yet Dressed With Nowhere to Go

On Tuesday, I had lunch with my favorite gambling aunt. We've been out of touch for about a month, and it was good to catch up. Nothing elaborate, this lunch. Just a personal pan pizza for each of us. And she had fries. Yeah. I know. That's as bad as those people who drink milk with their steak. Anyhoo...we decided that it was about time for another casino run. We set the date for today.

Nothing gets Val's blood pumpin' like the thought of an excursion to the casino! Not even her precious daily elixir. I'm like a kid on Christmas Eve! In fact, when I left lunch on Tuesday, I was thinking, "At this time in two days, I'll be at the casino!" I was walking on air. I even planned our meals around this big event, telling Hick at least three or four times, "Now you know that on Thursday, I'm going to the casino with Auntie. So I won't want to be standing in the kitchen making supper when I get back. I might get home around the same time as you do. I can bring some food from town." Hick decided that he wanted a Beef Taco Salad from Hardee's. I know. Like the Pizza Hut fries and the Bonanza Steakhouse milk, my man likes his taco salad to come from a hamburger chain.

All day Wednesday, I was thinking, "In 24 hours, I'll be in the casino!" That night in front of the TV, I thought, "All I have to do is go to sleep now, and when I wake up, it will be time to go to the casino!" I even had my lunch planned out. I was buying for Auntie, too. We would go to Burger Brothers. Where I would get a burger, of course, and she would probably get the Italian Sausage like last time. Because why would she get a burger at Burger Brothers...

I sent my sister the ex-mayor's wife a text inviting her to go with us, even though I knew it was short notice and she babysits Babe, her toddler granddaughter. I didn't hear back, so I figured she must be camping and out of phone reception.

I planned my exercise routine. (STOP LAUGHING!) I knew that I would do a lot of walking at the casino, so the trash dumpster could wait until Friday to be brought back down to the garage. I would take an extra ibuprofen as we left town. That should kick in while walking around the casino. I picked out what clothes I would wear, with the right depth pockets for my money and ID. It doesn't pay to take a purse to the casino. I decided that I could get by without my glasses.

Then I got an odd sensation. A sort of anxiety about the trip. What if something happened? Like how would The Pony get his monthly allowance from his 10-days-missing letter that I had enclosed it in? Would Hick know how to make a mobile deposit? Could Hick figure out which bills needed paying? Would Genius or The Pony know my passwords to update or shut down my blog? I never feel like this before a casino trip. I choked that feeling right back down and told myself this was just like Christmas Eve! Gambling tomorrow! At the casino!

I went to sleep with dreams of reels spinning in my head.

This morning, Hick woke me at 6:00 as instructed, just before he left for work. Rain poured down. Lightning flashed. "Huh. I thought that rain was supposed to be out of the area by now. It should end by the time we leave Backroads at 9:00. I'm sure."

I got up and took my medicine. Laid out my wads of gambling cash to stuff in my pockets. Got out my driver's license for ID for when I won a big jackpot. Put my two insurance cards with it, in case the big win gave me a fainting spell and I cracked my skull. Added my slot card on its stretchy blue telephone-cord-like thingy that reminds me to take it out of the machine. Set out a Walmart-brand Pepcid, an ibuprofen, an acetaminophen, an aspirin (you never know when the knees might start to protest), and three individually wrapped Lifesavers Wintergreen Mints.

I fired up my Shiba and checked out the innernets. Watched a Four Weddings rerun on TLC. By that time, and hour had passed, so I could take the rest of my medicine and have a bowl of oatmeal. And that's what I was doing, in fact, eating oatmeal, ready to get in the shower and leave for town, when my phone buzzed at 7:15. I glanced at it. Oh, a text from my sister the ex-mayor's wife. NO! It was a text from Auntie (their names are similar). "I can't make it today. Taking [a family member] to the [health facility]. I'm sorry. Let's go another time."

Well. Here was Val, all dolled up in her prom dress, watching out the living room window for her date to arrive with the corsage. Except he never came.


What could I do? I sent back a message that it was okay. Even though I hadn't had my dreams crushed this flat since the last time Auntie stood me up for a casino trip, that year she caught the flu.

Okay. I got over it. We weren't meant to go today. Who knows what catastrophe we might have avoided by staying home? Maybe there was a reason for that anxiety last night.

But I really wish I hadn't gotten up at 6:00 a.m. Them's workin'-people hours!

Let the record show that Val has never been stood up for prom. That prom was canceled, both her junior and senior years, due to a lack of interest. C'mon, people! It was the SEVENTIES, for cryin' out loud.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Taste of Fall

I'm trying to sneak today's post past Even Steven and that harsh taskmistress Mother Nature. Storms are heading in, with a 90% chance for the time that I am usually burning the bedtime electricity. Don't expect anything elaborate. My power just went off and snapped back on at 4:15, so this is a rush job.

Lookie what I saw on the way to town:

Isn't that stunning? All Halloweenie and autumnish? It's on a tree trunk behind EmBee's mailbox condo down by the creek. I have blogged previously about it, but that was way back in 2013, and on my supersecret blog. So I think I can get away with a not-quite rerun without the angry mobs waving pitchforks and flaming torches. But that would be pretty, too, right around dusk.

Today was overcast, so the colors kind of pop. The old photo taken on an old phone (perhaps the future toilet phone, or perhaps the Genius hand-me-down before that one) was not as colorful. It was, however, later in the evening, and later in the year. Maybe fall came early this year. Maybe not. I think the temperature hit 90 yesterday.

This fungus supposedly tastes like CHICKEN! Doesn't everything? It's called Sulphur Shelf Fungus, or the Chicken Mushroom.

You are welcome to bring two slices of bread and make a sandwich. Or I can sell the bread to you if you take the Shackytown tour before the leaves are off the trees.

Disclaimer: Not responsible for deaths or debilitating disease that may or may not be caused from eating a sandwich made with this fungus.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Genius People Non-Problems

Here's a little bragging update on the Genius job search for next summer's internship season. As you may recall, Genius was attending his college career fair at the end of September. He had several leads, and a few days after his interviews, received a formal offer from Garmin with a $2 per hour raise over what he made working for them the first summer, and housing still included. He had a couple weeks to mull it over before giving them his decision.

In the meantime, he had an interview with a software giant. Let's just call them MacroHard. This company has never interviewed in person on Genius's campus until this year. He had a technical interview, in which he was given a problem to solve within 30 minutes, which I think had something to do with writing computer code. Genius said he solved it, no problem, and still had the majority of his interview time left. The recruiter went over it with him, agreed that he had indeed solved the problem...and then started asking Genius basic facts that were on his resume and the info he had submitted online before his interview.

"I guess he really didn't know what to talk about with so much time left, Mom. Because that stuff was right there on the screen in front of him. With about 10 minutes of time still left, he said, 'Sorry that I don't have anything else to ask you,' and we wrapped up the interview. If I get a second interview with them, they will fly me to Seattle for it. I'm not sure how their timeline will fit in with mine. But I for sure wanted to be in their database for when I graduate. I feel like the interview went really well."

Genius also heard back from Union Pacific, but they don't have a position available in what he has plans to do. Last week, he got an email kind-of offer from the CarMan Group (one of the two big car manufacturers) and responded to see what they want from him. As in keeping with the overall presentation and interviews that he had with CarMan Group earlier, they were not very clear. It's kind of like when George didn't know if he had a job, working with the Penske file. I don't think Genius will show up in Dearborn, Michigan with an empty briefcase just in case.

Right now, he's waiting to see if there is a further response from MacroHard. He only has until Friday to notify Garmin if he accepts their offer. Which he is leaning towards at this time.

What has the world come to, when a college kid must finalize his summer employment before the end of October?

Monday, October 17, 2016

He AIN'T Playin' Possum

Look away if you're squeamish! I'm putting that picture at the bottom, so you have a choice. Whether you decided to get right to it before you read this, after seeing the thumbnail pop up, perhaps, on your Blogger reading list, is no concern of mine. Sometimes it doesn't pay to be brash and impatient. [Never mind! I put in dog feet! Maybe that's what'll pop up instead of the other.]

You may recall that Puppy Jack is half dachshund. Half his DNA is predisposed to ferreting out badgers. Well, we don't have any badgers here at the homestead. That I know of... We do, however, have moles. They have never been a problem. Maybe 10 years ago we noticed some tunnels in the front yard. And every now and then a dead baby mole turned up on the porch, needing close inspection to determine whether the cats had caught a mouse or a mole. The feet and nose are the clue.

When Jack and Juno frolic in the front yard after their evening treat, they sometimes stop to dig. The yard is big. It's covered with grass. So a few dirt holes aren't a major dog-shaming issue with Hick. Jack is a born digger. He has those wide, sturdy paws that mean business.

Don't be lookin' at Val's favorite sweatpants, with the hole in the hip teasing you with a flash of foundation garment! Look at those shovels Jack has for feet!

Juno's paws are the same size, even though she's a much bigger dog, but seem more dainty with her silky hair flowing between her foot pads.

Jack will dig like a champ, in a frenzy, dirt being flung at a frantic pace. Juno will root him away, stand on three feet and dig with one, a spray of powdered soil arching like the water spray of tugboats in New York Harbor on the 4th of July. I don't know how she does that. Jack, though, goes all out. He digs and stuffs his head in the hole. He yaps and prances.

Last week there was a little dead mouse on the brick sidewalk. I didn't think much of it. Hick walked right past it and didn't see. I figured the cats had killed it.

Yesterday, when we got home from a casino trip, I saw something else on the sidewalk. In about the same place. We normally don't walk across the front of the house, unless Hick comes from the car to sit with me on the front porch when he gets home. We go in the back door, through the kitchen, which is what Hick did yesterday. I petted the dogs and cut under the carport, with a view of the dug-up, re-done brick sidewalk that Hick spent a couple of weeks making look the exactly same as before. Get ready to look away now. You can pick up the story after this photo:

That's a MOLE, baby! A pretty good size one, too. Those old paving bricks, from the alley that used to run behind my $17,000 house in town, are about 8.5 inches long. Which would make Mr. Mole about a six-incher from tail to pointy snout.

I figure Jack finally caught his prey. He's been pretty dirty lately, what with his several-times-a-day swimming interludes, then finding dirt to wallow in. Looks like his wallowing has been in a mole tunnel. There were no marks on Mr. Mole. Just the soggy belly fur where I suppose Jack (after numerous attempts at a good grip) grasped him in his extraordinarily tiny mouth and held on while shaking the living daylights out of him. Perhaps Juno got in on the shaking action. Oh, and that may or may not be a detached eyeball laying beside the head. You have to admire nature's adaptations, even though I find the human-like fingers and the rubbery nose particularly detestable.

I told Hick about the carcass, but I don't know if he did anything. Perhaps I need to go look. Something might have eaten it overnight. Or else Hick will probably fling it down one of the sinkholes. Or maybe toss it over the fence into the neighbor's field like he did with our last dead possum. Oh, he likes that neighbor well enough. Went to school with him. But Hick is not going out of his way to bury a dead critter unless it's a pet. Besides, if Jack dug this mole out of its burrow, I'm pretty sure he'd dig up a dead one from its shallow grave.

Okay. You know you looked. Couldn't resist a picture of a dead mole. Won't you agree with my own personal back-patting that I made it look kind of artsy, with that late-afternoon sunlight streaming through the decrepit picket fence that Hick put up against my wishes?

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Depths to Which Val Has Sunk, at the Height of Her Addiction

Remember how I spent an afternoon with my best ol' ex-teaching buddy Mabel on Thursday? I left her house sometime between 3:00 and 4:00. Time means nothing to me now! For remembering things like that. But time means everything to me when it comes to getting my daily 44 oz Diet Coke. If I went straight home, I'd have to go past the homestead into town for my magical elixir. That would tack extra time on my outing, time which Hick didn't have, what with almost dying of starvation while I was away. So I stopped on the way out of Mabeltown at the LOVE Station.

For those of you who don't know, a LOVE Station is a truck stop/convenience store franchise. They usually have a restaurant attached. This one in Mabeltown is always booming. It has a McDonald's on one end, then a Church's Chicken, then the LOVE Station. You can walk through all of them on the inside if you want, or go in the exterior doors.

I figured I'd grab my 44 oz Diet Coke there, so I'd have it when I got home. And also I'd pick up some chicken for Hick the crybaby who didn't want a bacon cheeseburger that had been in the car for a few hours (even though he later ate it after the chicken). I went to the soda fountain and reached up top for a 44 oz cup.


I did that sound because it's a truck stop, see? Instead of the phonograph needle sound. So it's like putting on the brakes. WHOA! The 44 oz cup dispenser was empty! So I looked at the row built into the wall on the left side, and that top 44 oz cup dispenser was ALSO empty! But at the bottom on the left, there was ANOTHER 44 oz cup dispenser. EMPTY! Yeah. Every single 44 oz cup was missing! That's no way to run a business! I looked around, you know, because surely somebody had seen that I was perplexed, not having a 44 oz cup. The most expensive cup.

Can you believe nobody cared? Can you? That place is always frantic. People here, people there. Truckers acting like they own the place (!) grabbing coffee and oil and sundry products from the shelves that kind of look like Auto Zone. I don't know where all these people come from, and where they're all going. It's like they're competing in a road rally, or Amazing Race. The line is always backed up at the counter, despite two cashiers. So I couldn't go butt in that line and ask if somebody could get me a 44 oz cup.

Don't even think I would go to the McDonald's for my soda. No siree, Bob! I do not like McDonald's Diet Coke, even though my mom favored it. It's weak sauce. Forget Church's Chicken. For all I know, they serve Pepsi there like the Oklahoma casinos. Nope. I HAD to get my 44 oz Diet Coke from the LOVE Station. So I did what any normal person with a daily 44 oz Diet Coke habit would do, and pulled a 32 oz cup, and then a 20 oz cup. Don't even suggest two 20s. That's NOT 44 oz! Besides, why pay more for two 20s and get less, when I could get a 32 and a 20 and pay less. Oh, come on! I didn't drink 52 oz of Diet Coke! There was ICE involved!

I paid for my two sodas and left. I might have stopped by the scratch-off machine as long as I was right there by it on my way to Church's Chicken. Do you know how hard it is to carry scratch-off tickets, two sodas, a box with three pieces of chicken, and have your T-Hoe clicker ready? Pretty ding-dang-dong hard!

Once inside T-Hoe, I set to apportioning my 44 oz of Diet Coke. I had brought two foam cups, you see. Because one time I got a soda at a strange store, and they only had those thin plastic cups. Not insulated. So I brought my own cup-within-a-cup just in case. I poured in the 32 oz cup, and then some from the 20 oz cup (with ice) to top it off. And put on a lid that I had brought. The remainder, I left topless (heh, heh) to sip from on the ride home, on straight stretches that didn't matter if I tilted my head back momentarily.

I was not pleased, once home, that Hick took the food bag and left me to juggle the mail, my purse, those two foam cup-within-a-cup filled with 44 oz of magical elixir, the 32 oz empty cup, the 20 oz cup with a bit of soda remaining, and my giant yellow bubba cup with ice water. I was expecting more help from Hick, especially since my karma points were in the plus column, having held the door open at the LOVE Station for a woman exiting with two bowls of fruit. Uh huh. In a giant barrel of ice right inside the door, they had plastic tubs of mixed fruit. None for Val, thanks.

I may buy gas station chicken, but I draw the line at truck stop fruit.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Truck Stop Chicken is the New Gas Station Chicken

I'm sure you'll find this hard to believe, but Hick took the day off on Thursday and Friday. Uh huh. That's after I made the mistake of telling him that I was having lunch with my best ol' ex-teaching buddy Mabel on Thursday. Hick has a habit of horning-in. Even though he says his take-off was purely coincidence, because he needs to use up his days before he retires in December.

Hick knows that I meet up with Mabel a couple of times a year. While I was working, it was on days that I was off for an appointment of some type, so we had plenty of time to catch up. HICK KNOWS THIS. Keep that in mind.

Thursday morning, I told Hick that I was leaving at 10:15, that we were meeting at the restaurant at 11:00, then going to see Mabel's house, and that I would bring him something back if he wanted. I had mentioned bringing him some food a few days earlier, emphasizing that I would not want to cook a meal when I got home. But because Hick gets his nose out of joint more frequently than Michael Jackson even dreamed of, I offered again.

"I know you said you didn't want anything. And there are hot dogs in there for lunch, with buns I bought on Monday."

"I'm fine. I like hot dogs."

"I won't be making supper. I'll just grab something quick for myself. I'll probably stop at the LOVE Station for my soda, so I don't have to go into town when I get home. Are you SURE you don't want anything?"

"Maybe a burger. I could eat a burger. Or...they have chicken at the LOVE Station." Said the man who turns up his nose when I bring home gas station chicken.

"Just a burger? They have pork chops. And meat loaf. With sides. I don't remember what else was on the menu, and I just turned off my laptop, so I can't look it up."

"Well...I guess you could bring me something. I don't need any pork chops or meat loaf. Just a burger. Some kind of bacon cheeseburger."

"Okay. I'll bring you something." I went at 10:15. For my lunch at 11:00. Then to Mabel's house, where we could chat without getting the stinkeye from the waitress. At 2:41, I got a call from Hick. Not a text, mind you. A call. Let the record show that I had told Hick that if I was driving, I would not be able to look at his text, and perhaps not answer a call. That road is twisty-turny two-lane blacktop. The trip takes 30 minutes.


"I just called to see if you're okay. Where are you?"

"Sitting here in Mabel's house, talking."

"Oh. I was getting worried about you."

"It's only 2:30. I don't know why you're worried. I got you a bacon cheeseburger. It's out in the car."


"Don't you want it?"

"Not it it's been in the car for two hours." Said the man who came back in the house this morning for a long-sleeved shirt, saying it was too cold outside.

"It's fine. It's been in the shade the whole time. It's 58 degrees." Criminy! It's not like that cheeseburger was in a clay pot in the sun on the beach for 30 days, fermenting like kimchi.

"That's okay. I'll have something."

"So you don't WANT the cheeseburger?"

"We'll see." Said the man who has been known to eat hot dogs several months after their expiration date, now squeamish about a cheeseburger a few hours after cooking.

I was not about to cut my trip short because of Hick the prima donna who was not getting attention lavished on him on a day he took off work when he knew I had plans. But when I started home at 3:15, I grabbed a breast and two legs at the LOVE Station. From the Church's Chicken franchise, of course. It looked like it had been in the warmer since mid-morning. Didn't bother me. I wasn't going to eat it.

At home, Hick came to the garage as I was gathering up my stuff. He took the bag that held his bacon cheeseburger in a foam container, and the box with Church's Chicken that I had set down on top of the burger. AND WENT INSIDE! That left me to carry my purse, the mail, and five cups (more on this another time).

The minute I managed to pry open the kitchen door and go inside, Hick was on his way out the front. "If you want that burger, you can have it. I'll have the chicken." Of course I WANTED the bacon cheeseburger. But I had already partaken of restaurant food that day, and was holding myself to a TV dinner and a bowl of steamed veggies.

When I went outside for my daily walk, I saw Hick sitting in his Gator parked over in Shackytown, eating truck stop chicken out of the box. He better not have thrown the bones to Puppy Jack.

Friday morning (and by morning, I mean noon), as I started to town for my 44 oz Diet Coke, I called Hick over in Shackytown working on his new project. "I'm going to town for my soda. Can I bring something back for HOS?" HOS (Hick's Oldest Son) was helping him build his newest shack.

"No. HOS has to go pick up his boy in a few minutes. But I'd take a burger."

"Oh. So you're going to throw that one away that I brought you yesterday?"

"No. I ate it last night."

So...are you following? Hick ate the truck stop chicken at 4:45 when I got home, and then after it got dark, he ate the bacon cheeseburger. I can only surmise that Hick was wasting away at 2:41, waiting for me to bring him LUNCH on Thursday, and then ate that "lunch" at 4:45, and the burger for supper around 6:30. I'm pretty sure his call to see if I was okay was actually a call that meant, "Where in the NOT-HEAVEN is my lunch?"

I'm surprised he has managed to survive this long. And I'm not referring to the junk food that I feed him.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Back-of-the-Book-Blurb Friday #30 "Daddy Sang Bass, Daddy Sang Tenor"

Blog buddy Sioux is hosting Back-of-the-Book-Blurb Friday. I have 150 words to convince you to fake-buy my fake book. Quick! Show of hands! Who's interested in a BIOGRAPHY? Hold on there. Don't panic. This is NOT school! We're not talking about BIOLOGY! Not talking about GEOGRAPHY! It's just a true fake story of a unique person who deserves their own fake book! Don't try to lecture me on the use of "their" in that sentence. You'll see the purpose soon enough.

Now get your fake money ready. Don't shove! There's enough fake product to go around. C'mon! Jump on the bandwagon! It's the IN thing to do!

Daddy Sang Bass, Daddy Sang Tenor

Emmett Louis Hairless has a secret. For as long as he can remember, he has felt like he's trapped in the wrong body. He loves his wife. He loves his kids. But he can't shake the feeling that he was born to be a female country singer.

Sitting on the front row, tapping his toes to the headliner at the South Dakota State Fair, Emmett Louis has an epiphany. He can't wait to get home and break the news to his wife and the boys. "We're moving to Branson! I'm opening my own theater! I'm going to be a star!"

Follow Emmett Louis's journey from park ranger at Mount Rushmore to headliner on the Branson strip. His meteoric rise to become the country's second-highest paid musical impersonator, in the most talked-about fake biography in decades, "Daddy Sang Bass, Daddy Sang Tenor." (141 words)


Fake Reviews for Val’s Fake Book

Emmylou Harris…"I would walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Roosevelt's Nose for this fake author! It's a wonderful fake biography! I can't wait to put this fake book on my fake bookshelf. The whole trans thing aside, as Rooster Cogburn said, watching Mattie Ross of near Dardanelle in Yell County crossing the river on her horse, Little Blackie, in the original True Grit, 'That reminds me of me!'"

The Go-GosOur lips are sealed! Our mommas taught us if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. That's the best we can do with this fake book.” 

Loretta Lynn…”Sorry, Val, but you ain't writer enough to fake-write this fake book!'”

Dolly Parton…”I'm no stranger to writing. I've written a couple thousand songs. You mighta even heard one or two of 'em. There's something I always tell my audience at a live performance: 'It takes a LOTTA money to look this cheap!' And all I got to say to you, Val, honey, is: 'It must take a LOTTA talent to write this bad!'” 

Johnny Cash…”Life ain't gonna be easy for a gal named Val. Stealing a song from Mr. Carl Perkins to use as a fake title for your fake book does not bode well for you in the afterlife. Once ol' Carl gets a-holt a ya, a vacation'll be all you ever wanted ("WATCH IT, CASH!" --The Go-Gos). By the time you're done a-kickin' and a-gougin' in the mud and the blood and the beer, you'll be hopin' to fall down, down, down into a burnin' ring of fire!"

Elvis Presley…”I'm all shook up! I CAN help falling in love with this fake book! Val Thevictorian is stepping on some blue suede shoes in the music industry. She's hyping this new singing sensation as the!”

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Thursday the 13th, Part 1

Today I spent a wonderful late-morning and early-afternoon with my best ol' ex-teaching buddy, Mabel. We met at a restaurant in her town, where I enjoyed a delicious repast, not caring all that much about making a wise choice. Maybe more on that at a later time. Maybe not. The Length In Blogging Law prevents me from going into it now.

We got there around 10:50, so close to my old school lunch time of 10:53 that it was uncanny. I chose the first table as we went in, because that's where we sat last time, and it's kind of away from the rest of the dining room, and there's a line of sight to the bathroom area, and I figured that with a giant table suitable for a feast in a medieval castle next to us, we would be pretty much on our own, without prying ears. Because what large group goes out to eat en masse on a Thursday morning at 10:50?

Apparently, old ladies like us!

We had scarcely given our order (after asking for LUNCH menus instead of the breakfast menus we were automatically provided) when The Society of Little Old Ladies Who Lunch Loudly began to arrive. It's not like they were wearing red hats and got a private room. Nope! A few trickled in and staked out their territory, which was of course the long table right next to ours. The whole rest of the dining room was open. Only a couple of other customers were there, sitting at the bar. EATING! Not drinking! It was 10:50 a.m., by cracky! Even though it was no doubt 4:50 p.m. somewhere. Maybe a better term would be counter. But it sure was set up like a bar. Even though the actual bar is next door, on the other side of the bathrooms.

The Society of Little Old Ladies Who Lunch Loudly kept a-comin'. Three here. Five there. A pair. I would have sworn there was a clown car parked in the handicapped spot, so steady was the trickle of new Old Ladies! When that table was full, with one perched at one end, and two doubling up down at the other end...I counted 17 Old Ladies! I'm thinking they all got separate bills, because I saw them going to the bar counter to pay. Which I didn't have to do, because my best ol' ex-teaching buddy, Mabel, picked up the tab! She ROCKS!

I'll tell you what else ROCKS, and that is Mabel's house! We went there after not even wearing out our welcome this time at the restaurant. I think of it as The House That Retirement Built, because Mabel was working on it during the year before she retired. Not that she told any of us she was retiring, of course, until after the fact. Not MY style! I couldn't shut up about my own retirement. I would have shouted it from the rooftops had I been able to get my knees up a ladder.

Anyhoo...Mabel was working on her house--I was going to say, *it's not like she was swinging the hammer, pounding home the nail--but she kind of was! Mabel and her mister did a LOT of work on their house, and did I mention that it's beautiful? For those of you clamoring, "Pictures or it didn't happen!" I do have pictures, but I don't know if Mabel wants her abode flashed all over the innernets, even without identifying details. So I'm not putting one here at this time. Besides, I haven't been to town since taking them, and to send myself a picture from my phone, to put in viable form for posting, I have to be in town, not in this black hole of airwave reception. Amelia Earhart had a better chance of getting a message out.

The point is, I had a wonderful day with a wonderful friend, AND I have at least one more story to mine from it! Thanks, Mabel! The next one is on me. But don't expect a tour of the house that Hick built. You can watch Hoarders if you want a visual.


*Song lyric reference. Remember back when I shared that Alabama video with you, "40 Hour Week (For a Living)," where the Deeetroit au-toe workers danced so joyously to their lyric on the assembly line, back before a unibrow on a lead singer was not a bad thing?

Here it is again.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

That's What Val Calls "Draining the Main Drive Train"

Another attraction to my weirdo magnet from Sunday:

Let the record show that this was a reverse attraction. Which is not to say that it was a repulsion, though I did have a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach upon further introspection.

This truck was already sitting on the parking lot of the gas station chicken store when I pulled in to procure my daily 44 oz Diet Coke. All I noticed at first was that my favorite parking space, on the end nearest to the building, was open. I parked and climbed out of T-Hoe, and noticed something odd about this truck parked two spaces away.

Was this truck urinating?

What is with the container sitting underneath, with clear yellow liquid draining into it? And what about that gallon jug next to it? Did somebody need a specimen? Was the truck headed to the doctor for tests? Did somebody pick up that tub and pour the truck-pee into the gallon jug? Or was the jug the first receptacle? Did someone hold that jug for the truck to relieve itself into?

I went on inside, because first things first, right? You gotta get your 44 oz Diet Coke before you ponder the mysteries of the universe. When I came back out, I knew I had to get a picture. I grabbed my phone and hurriedly snapped this shot. I was afraid I might hear the REE REE REE stabby music from Psycho as somebody sat up from the club cab seat and give me the stinkeye. Or that a customer might run out of the store and demand to know why I was taking a picture of his truck. So I only have this one, spur-of-the-moment photo to prove that I'm not making this up.

I don't know what the deal was here, but apparently this weirdo's contraption had a stronger pull than my own magnet, and brought ME to IT.

WITNH (What In The Not-Heaven) was going on here?

Any motorheads out there know what this it? Because this dweebie is clueless. Maybe the secretary in Ferris Bueller's principal's office would know...

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Apparently, There's One of Val Born Every Minute

Some days you can't buy a story from Cosmo Kramer to turn into your own for a blog post. Other days, a simple trip to town for a 44 oz Diet Coke yields a bountiful harvest. Then Hick drops a mud cookie that has you salivating to share, and your tales back up like chocolates on a Lucy/Ethel assembly line.

My weirdo magnet was strong Sunday. It attracted no fewer than four encounters that could blossom into blog fodder with a bit of cultivation.

No sooner had I stepped into the exit door of Country Mart to pick up a few lottery tickets than a prime specimen heeded my pull. She was my only weirdo encounter of the third kind on this trip.

Let the record show that Country Mart has TWO machines that dispense scratch-off tickets. You put your bill in the slot, and poke the button of the kind you want. Kind of like buying a can of soda, if cans of soda cost $5 and came out flat and you could enclose some once a week in a letter for your son Genius away at college. I strode through the two sets of self-opening doors, and stepped immediately right, to patronize that machine first. You have to be careful at this one, because the door sensors are a bit askew, I think, and if you don't step over far enough, the doors will keep opening and closing as you stand there, attracting attention to yourself buying lottery tickets, which is something I try to avoid. The attention, that is.

Even though I know the ropes, and was standing where the doors should not have sensed me, they kept opening. And closing. About four times. Then my weirdo arrived. Perhaps she'd been hesitating just out of my sight, trying to scrounge up courage to come in. Other people besides me use the EXIT door for an entrance. They may or may not grab a cart from between those two sets of doors, and go right on past me, through the closed checkout lanes, and into the store for shopping. This weirdo did not. She stepped directly up to my shoulder, and stood there looking at me. I'm going to call her Mila. She reminded me of a former colleague. My best ol' ex-teaching buddy Mabel will know which one.

I tried not to engage. I've found that's best when trying to discourage weirdos. So I didn't make eye contact. I sensed Mila staring at me. She was tall. Thin. Close. She must have seen me come in, because she acted like this was her plan all along. No pretense of a cart. Stepped right to me.

"Excuse me, ma'am. Are you going to phk kls?"

Now she'd gone and done it. I HAD to engage.

"I'm sorry. I didn't hear that last part."

I turned to look at Mila. She was no spring chicken, but was probably a few years younger than me. She had nondescript-colored hair, long, pulled back in not quite a ponytail. Not only was she a close-talker, she was also a low-talker. What are the odds of THAT?

"Are you going to [TOWN REDACTED]?"

I couldn't help but notice that Mila was staring at my hand. My hand that held my ticket-machine-feeding money. Which I always have folded, gripped in my closed palm, so weirdos walking up to me asking close, low questions can't see it.

"No. I live in Backroads."

I had a fleeting thought to ask if I could help. After all, I was blowing money on lottery (heh, heh, I first typed lootery) tickets. However, my slaw-loving momma didn't raise no fool. Mila kept leaning in, like she was telling me a secret. As she did that, she looked over her shoulder at the two checkers who were not busy, and having a spirited discussion of their Saturday night. Mila must have been a low-hearer, too.


"I live in Backroads."

I was careful not to tell her it was out of town, and in which direction. People who give too many details are sometimes perceived as being untruthful. Hick has not yet learned this.

"Why is it that people who live in Backroads always do their grocery shopping in Backroads? I'll never get to [STREET REDACTED]!"

Off went Mila, through the unused checkouts towards the deli, perhaps looking for another mark.

That street is not that far away. Maybe four miles. Maybe less. It runs between the nursing home that we interviewed and didn't choose for my mom during her recovery from her seizure, and the furniture store operated by the mother of a former colleague, different from the one Mila looked like. I could easily have driven Mila to that area. Nothing much is there. I doubt she was planning to buy furniture. She didn't look like she lived in the nursing home. Perhaps she was meeting somebody at the gas station right beside the highway. No, it would not have been much of a chore for me to drive Mila to that street. For a moment (less than a minute) I entertained that thought, but then I channeled my Pony powers, and screamed inside my head, "NOT-HEAVEN NO!"

Sure, I could have given Mila a ride. IF I WANTED TO DIE! You can't be too sure what people are up to these days. I'll keep on living, thank you, and squandering my money as I see fit.

Why do these weirdos come up to ME?