Saturday, September 30, 2017

Let Your Opinion Be Known. Don't Cost Nothin'.

On Thursday, I set out to pose a hypothetical question. I was spurred to such a tactic by my experience at Orb K. It's becoming my regular hangout, what with the gas station chicken store STILL being out of Diet Coke! Oh, I still went in there and bought some chicken for Hick (okay, and me, too). But I've stopped even getting my correct change ready now. I figure it will probably be Tuesday before the Diet Coke flows again.

Anyhoo...after my Thursday disappointment on missing my magical elixir, I headed back to Orb K. It's the cinnamon babka of the Diet-Coke-dispensing world in Backroads. I'd been on the lookout for pennies during my travels. But I came up empty on Thursday. OR DID I?

Here's the hypothetical question:
Where do you draw the line in finding pennies from heaven?

I, for instance, draw the line at "finding" pennies in the coin trays on the counter that say to take one if you need it, leave one if you don't. And of course I draw the line at "finding" pennies in the pockets of my fellow line waiters. I'm pretty sure there's a law against poking your hands in someone else's pockets to "find" a penny while you wait to pay for your merchandise.

Here's the gray area. On Thursday, I found no pennies. But on my last stop at Orb K, while paying for my 44 oz Diet Coke, I saw a single penny in the dish at the end of the metal slide thingy that spits out your change from the register. I had not even handed over my dollar yet. Somebody ahead of me had left ONE PENNY.

Is this a "found" penny? What is the likelihood that the change was only 1 cent? Most people pay with plastic. But somebody had gotten back change, most likely scooped it out, and accidentally LEFT ONE PENNY! How is that different from having the penny in your hand, and dropping it on the floor? Or on the sidewalk or parking lot as you try to put it in you pocket?

Hick says it should count as a found penny. I am on the fence. On the horns of a dilemma. I have a foot in both camps. Is that penny really FOUND if it's someone else's change in the change receptacle? I can't decide.

So...what say you, my blog buddies? Is a single penny left in the coin return a FOUND penny? Or just somebody's forgotten change? Will opinions be drawn along antipennyite and propennyite lines? (Let the record show that antipennyites believe this pennies from heaven crap is a bunch of hogwash. And propennyites believe that just maybe, there might be something not-coincidental to all this penny-finding.)

Let the record show that I took that penny from the cash register slide. I did NOT put it in the dish of pennies there for giving and taking. I put it in my shirt pocket. And when my own change came out (a dime, nickel, and penny) I scooped it out and put it in my pants pocket.

I have not added that 1990 penny to my pennyillionaire storage goblet. It is in limbo. Sitting beside the goblet on the kitchen counter. Is it FOUND? Or is it just forgotten?

Yes, I was readying this post in my mind, going penny-less on Friday's travels during Book Blurb day. So I was going to write about it today. Then I encountered more news to write about. It was back to Orb K for my 44 oz Diet Coke, because the gas station chicken store is still out. Business was booming at Orb K. Probably all the Diet Coke drinkers bellying up to the Polar Pop bar. I had to park way around on the end. No big deal. I've found pennies and a dime over there. But not today.

As I pulled into the parking spot on the end, the only one left, I had to stop! There was a bottle laying in the parking space. I'm not running over glass. I'm retired, by cracky! On a fixed income. If I have to buy a new tire for T-Hoe, it might cut into my lottery money. So I stopped halfway in, leaving T-Hoe running, and climbed down to pick up that bottle. Huh. It was a mini whiskey bottle from the looks of it. Did you know those things are PLASTIC? I didn't. I picked it up anyway. A good deed for The Universe and Even Steven to reckon with. I didn't get a picture, because I was only halfway into the space, and a truck pulling a closed-in white trailer like used for hauling lawnmowers or tools was behind me, trying to maneuver into a spot along the back of the lot.

My plan was to throw that bottle away in the trash can on my way in. You never know, there might be more pennies in the fold of the trash bag! For my trouble, I got sprinkled with the amber leavings inside of that bottle as I swung my arm. That's how you walk, you know. Not with your arms to your side like you're carrying suitcases. Oh, well. I'd already started my good deed. I put that bottle in the trash can, but saw no pennies. In fact, they'd moved the trash can up against the front of the store.

I didn't see any pennies on the copper-colored tile. None in the change dish at the end of the cash register's metal slide thingy. Oh, well. Back to T-Hoe. On my trip back across the front sidewalk, something caught my eye!

It was the trash can that usually isn't there. The one I'd walked by on the way to the door, deciding not to put my whiskey bottle in because I wanted to check out the other trash can for pennies. Val is a creature of habit. Then I noticed the 3 PENNIES on the sidewalk! 

I put my 44 oz Diet Coke in its Polar Pop cup on the concrete windowsill, and got out my phone for this photo op. These were 2005, 1979, and 1976 (the year I graduated VALedictorian). They must have just fallen, because I didn't notice them on the way in, and that trash can had not been stuffed to overflowing.

Right place. Right time. I didn't notice until just now, but all 3 pennies were HEADS UP!

Today's pennies were # 40, 41, and 42 for my pennyillionaire collection. NOT counting the one I found in the cash register slide-dish the day before. Just on general principles.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Back-of-the-Book-Blurb Friday #78 "Do You Know the Mitten Cat?"

Blog buddy Sioux is hosting Back-of-the-Book-Blurb Friday. I have 150 words to convince you to fake-buy my fake book. This week, Val rides prowls the crime-ridden streets with a hardened career law officer. He's a bit down on his luck at the moment. Kind of like Val's fake book sales for the past 77 weeks. All it takes is one blockbuster, though! Won't you help Val make a fake comeback, and pre-order your fake copy today?

"Do You Know the Mitten Cat?"

Tiger Magnum Rockford is having a bad day. Kicked off the police force for his ninth indiscretion fueled by his love for catnip, he's trying his paw at private investigating. No longer able to the make payments on his Jaguar, buy a used Mercury Cougar, or even lease a Lynx...Tiger must claw his way across town on public transportation.

Three little kittens claim that somebody stole their mittens. Their mother smells a rat. Tiger is off to question possible witnesses. No pussy-footing around! Tiger is hoping to frame a culprit and get a kickback from the three little kittens. Or prove they're guilty of self-theft, and collect his fee and a piece of pie from their mother. Will Tiger M.R. pounce on this opportunity, and land on his feet again? (130 words)


Fake Reviews for Val’s Fake Book

Grumpy Cat..."I may not show it, but I take great delight in reviewing this fake book. I don't even have to change my expression to reveal my opinion."

Cast of the Broadway show CATS, in unison, impersonating Carnac the Magnificent..."Memory. What you wish you didn't have after reading Thevictorian's fake book."

Meow Mix Singing Cats..."This fake book struck a chord with us. Much like our commercial lyrics, Thevictorian's fake writing is repetitive and annoying."

Fancy Feast..."If this fake book was a cat food, its name would not be nearly as regal as mine. In keeping with its ingredients, and the care that Thevictorian put into creating it...the brand would be most accurately be named Slop Bucket."

Morris, the 9 Lives spokesman..."I might be finicky, but even a common alley cat would recognize that Thevictorian's writing is something that should be buried in a cat box.

Litter Box..."NO! Even I cannot stomach Thevictorian's writing!"

Kitty Carlisle on What's My Line..."By the way you have answered our questions, I have only one question left for you: 'Val, are you a simpleton?' Oh, wait! I have another: 'Cat got your tongue?' I WISH it would get your fingers!'"

Gunsmoke's Miss Kitty..."I've a good mind to tell Marshal Dillon to lock Thevictorian up and throw away the key for exposing us to this fake book. There's no danger that she'll ever be mistaken for a working girl. That's for sure. Not even Festus would call what Thevictorian does work. If hoping to be considered a good fake writer one day, she doesn't have a leg to stand on." 

Ball of twine..."I am less convoluted than one of Thevictorian's fake tales!"

Crosstown City Bus..."I can hardly make it from one stop to the next, due to so many people throwing Thevictorian under me. Her fake writing career stretches ahead of her like 50 miles of bad road."

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Am I the Only One Who Finds This Ironic?

Not too long ago, I revealed a misguided effort by Hick and HOS to return some road trash to its dumper. No new news on that garbage, but look what I found as I headed from the homestead to town last week:

Yeah. It's a road aquarium! On our gravel road, about 2/3 of the way from our house to the county road where EmBee lives in her Mailbox Row condominium. Not only did the dumpers toss their trash illegally, they couldn't be satisfied with throwing it out on the county blacktop road. They had to drive up on our private road to strew broken glass along the right-of-way.

Just behind those trees is a wide, knee-high waterfall. A lot of people ride their four-wheelers down here and let the kids wade and play in the creek. We took Genius and The Pony there when they were young. It's peaceful and refreshing, the sound of the babbling brook counteracting the squeals of the young 'uns. The weather has been so dry that the creek is low and brackish right now. Good thing. Wouldn't want a kid to lose a pinky toe walking on the shards.

I doubt there were any fish in there when the aquarium was discarded. It would have been impractical to drive around with water sloshing. Not to mention how heavy that aquarium would have been to lift, loaded with water. And fish. If any fish had been suddenly rendered homeless in that manner, I doubt they could have flopped their way over to the creek. So close. But yet so far.

I might be the only one who finds this ironic, the disposal of a fish house right next to a creek, which is also a fish house. I've never had a good grasp on what IRONY actually is.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Backroads Dogtooth Massacre

Hick has been doing some handyman work for our back-creek neighbors, Bev and her husband. You may recall that he helped them serve papers on Crazy Stick Dude for a restraining order. The latest projects include building a chicken house, and putting ceiling fans in their home. Hick put up some outdoor lights for them for $50, and now he's putting in a ceiling fan and some wiring for around $100. He says Bev is as crazy as me. Of course, I think she's crazier, but that's just a matter of opinion.

Hick may be fully retired now, but he's a creature of habit. He plans certain activities for the weekdays, and other work for the weekends. A couple Fridays ago, Bev called to see when he could put in her ceiling fans. Hick said he would be over on Saturday. For all her haste, Bev told him that she and her husband don't do anything on Saturdays, because it's their sabbath. Hick says he has figured out that they are 7th Day Adventists. Not that such a deduction is either here nor there, or that it makes Hick a master theologian.

Bev called Sunday morning, saying that they were ready for him to do the work, but Hick told her he doesn't work on Sundays. I think perhaps he was just thumbing his nose at her, because he doesn't go to church or do anything special then, and I overheard him telling his buddy, Buddy, that, you know, he really doesn't do much on Sundays, that's his day for taking rides in his Toronado and going to Goodwills and flea markets, and it was presumptuous for Bev to assume he worked on Sundays. Though not in those exact, or so many, words.

The job turned out to be a little more complicated than Hick expected. He had to run wire to put a ceiling fan in the basement, where Bev and her husband are making a bedroom, due to their belief that Crazy Stick Dude is peeping through their windows on the main floor. Bev asked if Hick could move the upstairs ceiling fan to the basement, and put the new one upstairs, but Hick said that would be a lot of extra work, and he would just put the new one in the basement as planned. I don't know why he didn't renegotiate his nonexistent contract for more compensation, but he didn't.

Bev said she wanted to be able to show the house and sell it the same day, and have it move-in ready. Not sure how that works. And we don't know if she's really trying to sell it or not, because now they've asked Hick about installing an alarm system. Said the alarm people told them it cost $400, but Hick talked to The Veteran (who used to do that kind of work a few years ago) and said they could do it for $250. Handyman Hick, undercutting professionals in every profession.

Anyhoo...Bev had told Hick to come early, because she likes to lay down for a nap at 10:00. He said it was taking him about 2 hours to do the fan and wiring, and that Bev laid down on the floor and watched him. She said that her back hurt from some kind of electromagnetic waves that Crazy Stick Dude must be sending out. See? I'm not THAT level of crazy, just because Bev and I both believe in contrails. Anyhoo...Hick had an audience for his work. When he finished up, they walked out to the yard to contemplate plans for the chicken house.

"Will you kill that white chicken?" Bev said abruptly.

"Well...I guess I could. Why do you want to kill it?" asked Hick the chicken-killer-for-hire.

"It eats the eggs! Oh, look! That one just laid." Bev ran over to get the egg, but couldn't find it, and added, "Darn it, she already ate it!"

I don't know how he brought home the chicken in his TrailBlazer (Hick can't drive the Gator over there, because the dogs will follow him, which means Jack and Juno and our third unofficial dog, Copper), but he did. I don't know if there's some unwritten rule about not killing the chicken in front of the person requesting its demise.

Hick told me this story when he came home for lunch. "I brought the white chicken home and put it out with the rooster [the only chicken we have left]. He sure was happy! I couldn't see killing that chicken. Bev won't know."

"You could have just told her that you're low on chickens, and that you'd take it."

"Well...I can tell her I just couldn't kill it, so I kept it."

About an hour later, Hick sent me a text. It was a picture of the gravel road over by Shackytown and the goat pen.

"Looks like Jack&Jack manicured the white chicken I can't find it."

Let the record show that HOS discovered down at the bus stop that Copper the neighbor dog's actual name is ALSO Jack! And that I think in his text, Hick meant to say that the Jacks had massacred the white chicken, not manicured it. Because that would be quite a sight to see, and Hick would have had to find the chicken to tell that. And I would get Jack & Jack a part-time job at a nail salon. the background of the picture, over at the end of the gravel, up against the shack...was the silhouette of Big Jack.

I sent a text back: "Doesn't look good for the little clucker. At least you can tell Bev that you took care of her request."

Now, for the propennyites...the gas station chicken store was STILL out of Diet Coke today! I think it must be the beginning of the apopadopalyspe, as Hick calls it. This makes the 5th day that I couldn't procure my magical elixir there! So I had to get it at Orb K.

That place is a regular penny mine! I was disappointed not to see any pennies when I stepped out of T-Hoe, and none around the trash can (which they moved closer to the building!), and none on the (formerly) penny-colored tile while waiting in line. But when I came out,

Back behind T-Hoe's tire. Good thing I'm observant! I guess I needed to work for it, lest I think this penny-harvesting is a simple task. This one was a 2008.

That makes three days in a row. My 6th penny (so far--don't jinx it) in the last six days. My penny goblet will be full before I know it!

This makes penny #39.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Incredible NeverEnding Journey

It takes less than an hour to travel from our house to the casino. When my favorite gambling aunt is driving, it takes less time than that. I had Hick as my chauffeur on Sunday, though, so a-sweaving we did go. We arrived safely, within the hour. Here's the thing...

We departed the casino at 2:17. We arrived home at 4:37. HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?

Oh, I'll tell you how it's possible! I was an unwilling accomplice on a Goodwill tour. Hick is quick to complain about getting tied up at the casino, and not getting home in time to do anything. THIS is why! It should NOT take over two hours to get home from a less-than-an-hour trip. What is he, the skipper of the U.S.S Minnow?

The first Goodwill stop was only blocks from the casino. I don't know what Hick got there. I'm thinking some beer glasses. [Here's a picture of all his loot that he took on the side porch at dusk. Because we got home so late! That high chair has been there since he got it a while back. The cats don't even perch on it.]

From there we got back on the highway (thankfully, or another 45 minutes would have been added to the trip if he took the back roads like he does during rush hour). A few miles south, we stopped again, at one of Hick's other favorite Goodwills. He was in there forever. "I had to wait in line! They were having a half-price clothing sale." Not that Hick was clothes-shopping. He's not above it. He finds shorts and jeans there. I guess stocky, short-legged men are the sort to donate their pants. From that one, Hick took the back road further south, to another favorite Goodwill.

Here's where things got dicey. I was waiting in A-Cad, engine running so I didn't bake, the temperature being 98 degrees. Hick usually parks up on the end, but this day he parked on the main aisle, midway down. It's on a slope. I kept craning my neck, looking for Hick to appear. I guess they must have had a clothing sale here, too.

I tried to take a little nap, but that wasn't happening. I looked toward the store again, and saw a CART BARRELLING TOWARD A-CAD! Behind the cart was an old lady, probably my age, flinging her hands in the air, palms up, like, "What ya gonna do?"

Even though my sunglasses were on, and I was over on the passenger side, I think that lady saw that I was not pleased. A-Cad is NEW, people! I never drive him! Sure, he's a 2016. But he has hardly any miles on him, unless you count those trips to Oklahoma. He rests comfortably in the garage, out of the elements, unless a casino trip is necessary, or Hick has his truck hooked to a giant lifter and the TrailBlazer loaded with hardware for Bev's projects.

Once upon a time, I had myself a new car, only a couple months old, parked at work in Cuba, Missouri, and a STUDENT driving her boyfriend's truck, late for school, couldn't stop it while parking against the rules behind the gym, and SLAMMED into my left rear quarter-panel, necessitating thousands of dollars in repairs. Funny thing (funny peculiar, not funny ha-ha), that poor Nissan Sentra was the exact same color as A-Cad. Was this going to be deja vu all over again?

Anyhoo...I guess that lady didn't want me jumping out to kick her rumpus, and she started half-heartedly running after the runaway cart. It rammed a car parked two spaces up, and bounced back and a little sideways, then continued on its trajectory towards A-Cad. That collision slowed it a tiny bit, so that Old Lady My Age almost caught up, reaching out her age-spotted hands, and at the very last second, with that cart only inches from A-Cad, GRABBED HOLD OF THE HANDLE! Whew! I nodded at her. Just to let her know, you see, that her rumpus was safe from a kicking.

As Old Lady My Age was pushing that cart back up the aisle, here came Hick.

"Did you SEE that? She almost let her cart slam into my car!"

"Oh, is that what happened? I'm not sure that was even her cart."

"Well, why would she fling up her hands like that, then chase it when she saw me sitting inside, if that wasn't even her cart? Don't make her out to be an angel when she might be the devil."

"I don't know. Her purse was sitting in another cart up top."

"She had to have something to do with it. Maybe she separated the carts to get one, and didn't park it back right."

"Maybe. But I've been standing by the door talking to someone twice, and seen carts rolling down the lot we didn't know where they came from."

"Are you telling me that carts appear out of thin air and roll down the lot? And you call ME a conspiracy theorist?"

"No. We stand there with no one else around, and a cart takes off from where it's parked. Concrete vibrates, you know. Something set it off."

I was so discombobulated by that near-miss (which I think is a total miss, but people say this all the time when things actually miss) that I forgot (yeah, forgot--that's the ticket) to congratulate Hick on his find.

He says she's an actual Hummel. He got her for 50 cents.

"I know it's a real one. It says on the bottom, 'Made in Japan.' That's where Hummels come from."


I guess by now, Hick can understand those side-eyes, even while he's driving sweaving.

"Oh. Germany. The Hummels first came from Germany. But the newer ones are made in Japan. That one is worth at least $15-$20."

"Does it say 'Hummel' on it?"

"No. But you can tell by the texture of them. It has a mark on the bottom. I just know it is."

So there you have it. We more than doubled our travel time home, but Hick thinks he's multiplied his Goodwill outlay on the Hummel by 30- or 40-fold.

Sheesh! It's not like he's accumulating a pennyillionaire fortune.


ALTERNATE TITLES: (1) Goodwill Hunting  (2) Bah! Hummel!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Finders Gloaters, Losers...LOSERS! Now UPDATED!

Gird your loins, antipennyites! Today's tale is two-thirds pennies!

I hit the road this morning with 4 stops on the itinerary. Casey's, the bank, Walmart, and the gas station chicken store. Can you believe I didn't find a penny at any of them? It wasn't for lack of trying, that's for sure!

The gas station chicken store was OUT OF DIET COKE! Does anyone have a defibrillator?  We had one on the wall at school. But that won't help me in the gas station chicken store. I tried to calm my nerves by asking if they had the new scratchers released today. And the Man Owner said they did not! The truck hadn't come in yet today. Again, just to calm myself, mind you, I bought a $5 ticket and told him I was headed to his competitor for my magical elixir. I'm pretty sure he had visions of their counter being deluged by 42 oz of Diet Coke as I left.

Anyhoo...I headed over to Orb K, saw no pennies by my special parking place by the crooked water grate. Just as I was about to reach for the door handle, I saw one!

Right there by the trash can. A 1996 version. Sometimes it's hard to tell them from concrete stains. But I have a practiced eye, you know!

I took a picture of it, as you can see. A Young Millennial passed me, heading inside. Oh, she didn't hold the door for me! She was a Young Millennial, by cracky! Not thinking of others. 95% of people always hold the door for me, and I for them. But Young Millennial kind of shimmied inside. At least she didn't try to slam the door in my face. She WAS giving me the Weirdo Side-Eye. Yes. I used it enough myself that I am sure to recognize it being thrown my way.

Anyhoo...I went on to the soda fountain. The counter was pristine, having just been wiped. It's usually like a hog trough in there. I got my Diet Coke poured into my Polar Pop cup, and went to the counter. One lady was ahead of me, of course using plastic to pay, which takes SO LONG at Orb K, what with the lag time on their processing thingy. While waiting, I looked over the scratchers. No new ones here, but Orb K usually doesn't put them out the first day anyway. Losing interest, I cast my eyes sideways toward the other side of the counter, and saw ANOTHER PENNY! WooHoo! A two-penny day for Val!

I don't know what Orb K has done to their floor, but this section certainly isn't copper-colored right now. Or else I might not have seen that precious new member (2003) of my eventual pennyillionaire fortune.

The checker gave me a fearful look, like I might be an inspector or something. I paid the $.83 fee with four quarters, and she sent the change to me by way of the curvy metal register slide.

Yes, I was driving on air from Orb K to home. Quite pleased with my penny haul today. And then I switched the pictures over to my New Delly, and upon seeing them enlarged, noticed something that gave my stomach that flipsy-dipsy feeling like driving over hilly Missouri Highway 8 between Steelville and St. James.

Go back to that first photo of the garbage can. I can't get an enlarged section to post here. Look right above the penny, in the crease of the white garbage bag.


I could have had three today! I don't mean to sound greedy. I HAVE found 4 in one day. That's my record. But this penny was left here for me to find, and I spurned it! I wouldn't have found any of them if the gas station chicken store wasn't out of Diet Coke.

I feel like such a loser. But not as big a loser as THE U.S. POSTAL SERVICE!

Yes, that's a bit of a jarring segway. I was going to put off this part for tomorrow, but I promised the antipennyites that there would be more here than pennies today.

Hick got a notice in the mail Saturday. An orange post card, telling him he had a letter that he needed to pick up at the post office. It had a tracking number. And it was from his old workplace. The one where he just retired two weeks ago. Or three now, I guess. It seems like years to me. But anyhoo...

All weekend, I quizzed Hick about that letter. The last time he got one was the summer before Genius was born, when he switched from his OLD old employer to start the company he just retired from. Four former employees left, with a backer on the east coast calling the shots, and got this company running. The letter that time was informing Hick that he was being sued for divulging company secrets. Don't you worry about Hick. The backer got all four factory-runners a high-powered lawyer, and nothing came of it.

"Why are they sending you a letter that you have to sign for? Are you in some kind of trouble? Did you steal something? Are you revealing company secrets again?"

"No, Val. If they thought I'd stole something, they wouldn't wait three weeks. They'd have sent to police to my door the next Monday, to search the house. It's probably something to do with my 401K money that we just took out. That last part that I left while they were still contributing."

"Oh. Yeah. Did you have a file there? Maybe with your licenses? Or medical information? Maybe they're sending that back. Or maybe something with COBRA."

"Yeah. It could be COBRA. They have to tell me in a certain amount of time. We'll just find out Monday."

Hick left home at 8:15 to get to the dead mouse smelling post office, which opens at 8:30. He called me later, and then told me the whole story after I got home with my pennies.

"They couldn't find my letter. First she shoved the card back at me and said, 'It says HERE that you can't pick it up until 10:00.' So I came back later, after noon, and they STILL couldn't find it. But it was her fault now, so she wasn't so hateful. 'Why don't you come back tomorrow? I haven't gone through the magazines yet. Maybe it's in with the magazines.'"

"Huh. I guess she hadn't READ other people's magazines yet. So you're going back?"

"NO! I told her, 'Why? That will be three trips for me to get my letter.' I saw they had a bunch of them stacked there, but mine wasn't in that pile. So I called work, and [REDACTED] said it was about COBRA. She was mad they couldn't find it. 'I paid SEVEN DOLLARS to send that letter!' she said."

"Well, here's what you got in our mailbox today. Another orange card. That says to pick up your letter tomorrow."

"Another card?"

"I'm pretty sure the weak link here is at the dead mouse smelling post office. The ones who allegedly delivered my debit chip card on Thursday, but I didn't get it until the next Tuesday. And the ones who put The Italian's eye care bill in our box Saturday, so I drove back and put it in his. They're such losers!"

I'm a little bit of a loser today. But still, I'm 2/3 a winner!

These were pennies #36 and #37. Sorry,  #38. I bet you won't still be there tomorrow.


So...I went back to Orb K, the scene of the forgotten penny, today (Tuesday) when I was in town. As I expected, the trash had been dumped. But lookee here!

I propose that the trash-dumper grabbed up the bag, allowing that penny to escape. And didn't bother to pick up the penny, because WHAT KIND OF IDIOT DOES THAT?

Here's a closer-up, though not a closeup.

It's definitely a penny. I picked it up, and once home, with my magnifying glass, determined that it was a 2000 version.

Blog buddy Bruce, in an attempt to assuage my grief, and stop me from kicking my own rumpus over leaving a penny behind...took a closer look at the original picture, and suggested that perhaps it was not a penny at all, but a button. I had the same doubts as I looked at my forgotten "penny" yesterday. It didn't look exactly like a penny, but it was the same size, and it was SO shiny! However, it DID appear to have a hole in the middle. The one I picked up today had a lot of black gunk on it. So maybe it's the same object, and the focus elsewhere in the original picture made it appear unpennylike.

Either way, by cracky, I found a penny today!

Penny #38 proudly joined his revered brethren, on top of the heap, in my Hick-given goblet.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Two Days Ago, I Ripped Off the U.S. Government

Shh...this is just between us. I don't need to spend my golden years in a Crossbars Hilton. Or more likely, a Federal Red Roof Pen.

Friday, I took the boys' weekly letters to the main post office. Not the dead mouse smelling post office branch in downtown Backroads. I go to the main post office every Friday. It's more dependable, and a day faster. Not that Genius and The Pony are sitting on the edge of their comfy couches, waiting eagerly for my letters to arrive.

Genius's letter is often too heavy. You can have up to four sheets of paper in an envelope, you know. That's the maximum weight for a regular stamp to carry. Unless you use onionskin paper, or parchment. I most often have only one piece of paper for Genius. I print his front and back. I also enclose his $6 for Chinese food, and two $5 scratch-off tickets. The Pony gets two or three pieces of paper. I don't worry about front-and-backing his, because he gets a little more money due to no (heavy) lottery, and one bill weighs half what two do.

Every week, I go to the counter and tell the clerk, "This one's ready to go, but I think this one here is a little heavy." Generally, the clerk hefts it with his/her hand, and agrees or says, "It's just right." On those "just right" days, they put it on the scale to make sure. They haven't been wrong yet. On those heavy days, I pay for the extra postage, and the clerk slaps another kind of stamp on the envelope. It's not as much as a regular stamp.

Anyhoo...on Friday, I also wanted to purchase a book of stamps. So I had extra postage, plus one book. The total was $10.01. I handed the clerk a twenty, and he gave me back a ten. Let the record show that I was fully expecting to get back $9.99. I need change for my 44 oz Diet Cokes. And ones, too. But that clerk gave me a ten. He ate the penny.


Can you imagine how much money that is, if only one clerk in each post office in the United States gives someone a penny off the cost of postage every single day?

And another thing...I suspect the main post office of using some kind of signal jammer! No, I'm not really THAT crazy. But I can't explain why my radio quits working there. I understand why it might not work when I pull into the parking area, which is kind of under part of the building. But why won't it work when I'm OUTSIDE of that parking area, driving up the street beside it? What's up with THAT? It's different from the static I get when driving along power lines.

I don't know if my cell phone works there. I haven't tried to make or receive a call. It doesn't send pictures very well at all, but then...I can't do that inside my own house, and I don't have a jammer, only a metal roof.

Anyhoo...I ripped off the U.S. Government to the tune of one cent on Friday. You know I had that penny I found at Waterside Mart in my shirt pocket, right?

Saturday, September 23, 2017

It WAS a Sunshine Day

Yesterday when I headed off to town, I had a good feeling about the day. To start with, I got up AN HOUR EARLY at the crack of 8:30! I wanted to get through Backroads before the local high school lined up for their homecoming parade. Yes, I started down the driveway, feeling like a Brady singing "Sunshine Day."

I stopped by the cemetery briefly. Only briefly, because whenever I stop, it seems like the groundskeeper has an alarm go off on his surveillance camera, because he always comes in my direction, no matter what he's doing or what machinery he's operating. On Friday, that happened to be a big green tractor. He came out of nowhere, up over a hill towards the very back of the property. So with a hasty apology to Mom and Dad, something like, "Oh, crap! Here he comes again! I'll stop by next week sometime. Love ya!" I headed on to town to mail the boys' weekly letters.

The first stop was the Casey's where I usually get gas, to pick up two scratch-off tickets that go in Genius's letter with his $6 Chinese food money. None for me. I was getting mine on up the road. I scoped out the parking lot for pennies, but saw none. As I came back to T-Hoe, parked at the side, not in my rightful spot by the handicap ramp, I felt like someone was watching me. As I finished the few short steps to T-Hoe, I flinched like I was about to step on something, looked down, and saw this

Yeah. A little mouse. He didn't even move as I walked by. Yes, he was breathing. I don't know if seeing a mouse that doesn't run is good luck or bad luck, but for him, the fact that he was breathing and uncrushed by my New Balance was good luck for him.

On to Waterside Mart, where I was cashing in a ticket for two more. I was still thinking about the mouse when I parked at the end space and started in.

Can you see it there? I like playing this little game with you. Could YOU spot the penny that was placed there just for you to find? It's not as easy as my penny collection seems to imply.

Yep! There it is, by that black blob. I almost stepped on it, because I was casting my eye farther and wider. It was a 1980 model.

On to the main branch post office, where a story landed in my lap that I will tell another day, because I'm pretty sure The Truth in Blogging Law has a corollary in fine print that says a post must be shorter than the long white beard you grow while reading it.

Then back to Backroads for my 44 oz Diet Coke. I could have parked in the nearest space, by the door, but decided to steer T-Hoe over to my regular spot by the moat that separates the gas station chicken store from Hick's pharmacy, CeilingReds. I could see the top of a head down in that moat, and it intrigued me, even though I was sure it was the mower man. It was. But he was weedeating that very steep slope. Good thing I didn't confuse T-Hoe's brake for his gas pedal!

I started inside, no winner to cash in, almost-exact change in hand. As I strode in front of the gas pumps, I felt like I might stub my toe. That lot is not exactly flat. There are raised humps around the giant grates over their gas tanks. I looked down, and there was another one!

Sorry there's no frame of reference here. No crazy stripes. No landmarks. The people in the gassing trucks were virtually gunning their engines waiting for me to stop my crazy picture-taking and get out of their way. Let the record show that when I took my phone out of my pocket for the picture, I saw that the time was 11:11. I guess that's what comes of getting up early to beat the parade.

This one was a newer model, 2016. I put it in a different pocket than my Waterside Mart penny, though after checking the dates with my at-home magnifying glass, they both ended up in my penny goblet.

Sorry, antipennyites. You already got a song and a mouse. You'll have to put off further Val-blog gratification until tomorrow.

But I WILL leave you with this silver nugget from Wednesday.

I found a dime Wednesday at the Backroads Casey's. Right where I usually park T-Hoe. Lucky for me there were three empty unmarked spaces left at that end, and I chose the optimum dime-finding slot.

The dime was from 1994. Genius's birth year. Somebody's been celebrating something in his room all week, starting around 1:00 a.m. As much as I try to tell myself that it's the dogs on the porch...the noise is coming from inside the house. Thumps on carpet, not dog toenails on wood.

These were pennies #34 and 35. Dime #7.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Back-of-the-Book-Blurb Friday #77 "And Wanda Was Her Name, Eh?"

Blog buddy Sioux is hosting Back-of-the-Book-Blurb Friday. I have 150 words to convince you to fake-buy my fake book. We all know that Val's a gambler. She likes her scratchers, she likes her casino, and she likes to wage that people will buy her fake books. Odds are that Thevictorian's fake books make more as a tax write-off than they ever fake-make in her bank account. Be an enabler, won't you? Pony up your fake money for this week's fake book. You can't lose if you don't play, you know.

"And Wanda Was Her Name, Eh?"

Wanda Wynn is a seasoned bingo player. She cut her teeth on the shell game, spent her formative years mastering 3-card monte, and now rules the bingo roost at her old folks' home. Recent budget cuts have watered down Wanda's bingo winnings. From the prize table, she has enthusiastically chosen donut seeds, cowboy bubble bath, beats headphones, a hillbilly washer and dryer, and a 3-piece chicken dinner...only to be disappointed in finding Cheerios, pinto beans, two empty beet cans connected by twine, a flat metal ring and clothespin, and a baggie containing 3 kernels of corn.

Wanda is mad as Not-Heaven, and she's not going to take it anymore. Will Wanda bluff her way to riches with her water-shooting 9mm handgun? (121 words)


Fake Reviews for Val’s Fake Book

Bingo, the farmer's dog..."There was a fake-writer who had a blog, and Thevictorian was her name. OH! S-U-C-K-S...S-U-C-K-S...S-U-C-K-S...describes her newest fake book."

The Wheels on the Bus..."Thevictorian has a lot in common with us. When she writes her fake books, the plot goes round and round. Unlike us, Thevictorian's plot never seems to reach her intended destination."

Itsy Bitsy Spider..."Take it from one who knows: Thevictorian's new fake book is a wash-out. It's enough to make me climb up that waterspout again and again to avoid any mention of it. Avoid it like scheduling a picnic on a day with thunderstorms in the forecast."

Five Little Monkeys..."One fake writer, hawking her fake book. Thevictorian's a hack, don't even take a look. Momma called the publisher and the publisher was shook. Don't buy this one, 'cause Thevictorian's a crook. Oh, yeah. Then we pushed her out of bed and she hit her head and now she's in a coma so you're all off the hook."

London Bridge..."Thevictorian's sales are falling down...falling down...falling down. There is nothing her fake publisher can do to build them up. My best advice for Thevictorian is to relocate. We all know she's going to end up somewhere very hot, like me. But much hotter than Arizona."

Old MacDonald..."Thevictorian wrote a book. Oh my, oh my, NO! And in her book there was no plot. Oh my, oh my, NO! With a fake book here, and a fake book a fake, there a fake, everywhere a fake, fake. Thevictorian wrote a book. Oh my, oh my, NO!"

The Farmer in the Dell..."Thevictorian wrote a book, Thevictorian wrote a book. Oh, no, I'm full of woe, Thevictorian wrote a book. Let's just cut to the chase here: like the cheese, Thevictorian's fake book stands alone, not selling, and stinks to high heaven."

John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt..."Nobody EVER calls Thevictorian John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt. My name is NOT her name, too. Whenever we go out, which we don't, because I don't associate with her...people always shout: 'There goes Val Thevictorian, the worst fake writer to ever fake-write a fake book!'"

Black Sheep..."Bah! Bah! Thevictorian! No wool for her! No, sir! No, sir! The master, the dame, and the little boy who lives down the lane all agree that her fake writing is flocking atrocious!"

Bonnie, lying around across various and assorted large bodies of water..."Thevictorian writes over the ocean. Thevictorian writes over the sea. Thevictorian writes over the ocean. Don't ever bring that fake writing near me. Last night as I lay on my pillow. Last night as I lay on my bed. Last night as I lay on my pillow. I dreamt Thevictorian was dead. Good riddance to bad writing!"

Thursday, September 21, 2017

This Is Why We Can't Have Run-of-the-Mill, Cheap-Ass Things

And now, for the doozy of a shock I got during RetirementPartyPalooza...

Genius and The Veteran were the two driving forces behind this event. I agreed to have the festivities here at the homestead, and Genius assured me that they would do all the work. I offered to buy the meat and make a few sides. That was my choice.

It's not like I was serving a sit-down Thanksgiving dinner with cloth napkins, fine china, and the family silver. The fact that I had napkins at all is a feat for which I should be commended, even though the package seemed fuller when the guests left than before they arrived. I offered a choice of sturdy oval cardboard plates, or a foam tray with compartments for folks who don't like their food to touch (explain THAT peccadillo to the starving children in [insert country here]). I also provided a nice set of plasticware (is that an oxymoron, or am I just the moron?) with forks, spoons, and knives.

As you can see, these were not the flimsy individually-wrapped forks that I collect from Hardee's when I get a Chicken Bowl. Not the black plastic kind which are likely to leave a broken tine in your teeth if you are a bit aggressive in your feeding habits. These were the thick, clear plastic PREMIUM forks, a Great Value brand, with their own case separating them from the spoons and knives. As you can see, we had plenty of forks left.

When we set out the food for self-serving, I made sure to have a fork or spoon with each item. I used my real metal forks and serving spoons for dishing out the vittles. In fact, we ran out at the dessert table, having a fork for the Rice Krispie treats, and one for the lemon bars, but lacking one for the giant chocolate chip cookie cake. We figured people were smart enough to use the knife, or borrow a fork from the lemon bars beside it.

I was standing at the sink, out of the way of the cutting block and counter, where people were milling around in an orderly fashion, loading their plates. I figured when they were all done, I could get mine last. That's what a good hostess does, right?

Let the record show that our guest list included a gaggle of kids who are of high school and driving age. Not little shavers. Old enough to be considered people. We are not a close family who gets together routinely to revel in our own company. I am not a jolly Mrs. Claus kind of grandma who hosts sleepovers and baking parties and knits you those sweet house slippers that are great for sliding on tile floors. I'm more of a severe spinster aunt kind of relative, who might send you five dollars for your birthday, and expect a written thank you card sent through the U.S. mail. (Let the record show that we give more than that, and I don't expect a thank you.)

Anyhoo...there I was, allowing everyone to fill their plates and find a suitable place to sit outside (the surfaces inside being covered with our food platters) before I partook of the feast. With only a few people left, a young gal (let's call her Sissy) came back inside and around the counter to stand beside me. She was cute as a button, and polite as only a woman who has raised four sons can appreciate.

"Do you have any real forks?"

I was taken aback. REAL forks? What in the Not-Heaven! I had a PREMIUM set of 192 pieces of sturdy plasticware, 64 of which were forks! Why would anybody need a REAL fork? Are you special? Are you allergic to plastic? What are you trying to stab or cut? Why should YOU deserve a real fork, when everybody else, including about-to-be-eating me, is okay with using plastic forks? That's not what I said out loud, of course.

"Um...we're out of real forks. I put them out with the food, to serve with. In fact, we were one short on the cookie cake."

"Oh. Okay."

And with that, Sissy started pawing through the clean silverware in the dish drainer! As you may recall, my guests started arriving 45 minutes early, as I was cleaning up the kitchen. And I don't have a dishwasher. Are you freakin' kidding me? Pawing through my dish drainer! That was CERTAINLY not done back in my day! The fact that there was even silverware IN the dish drainer was a major faux pas on my part, but to my credit, at least they were clean, and would have been put away by the scheduled party time.

Well. That pawing was just not going over well with Val! In haste, I pulled open the silverware drawer, and grabbed a little fork. That's what my kids call them. Little forks. If you're a Rockefeller of a Vanderbilt, perhaps you'd call them salad forks. I only have four of them. There used to be eight. When Genius moved out to go to college, I lost four short forks as if overnight. Genius denies it to this day, just like the missing four inches of Apfelkorn in the bottle that Hick brought back from a trip to Germany and put in FRIG, too.

It's not like Hick took my short forks in his lunch box and left them at work randomly during his career. Hick, in fact, does not like a short fork, and has only brought extra silverware INTO the house, one of them being my favorite spoon which does not match my set. Genius and The Pony preferred the short forks, and I'm pretty sure that even when Hick excavated the junk in The Pony's room after he left for college last fall, no short forks were found. All tines point to Genius as the fork thief.

Anyhoo, I took one of my four remaining short forks out of the drawer, and said, "'s a short one. Here you go, honey." Well. Not the honey part. Val is a woman of few words and fewer endearing nicknames. So I probably just thrust it at her and said, "HERE!"

"Thanks!" Sissy headed back outside to her plate. Of whatever was so tough that it needed a metal fork instead of plastic.

That was fine, right? Surely a lass of teenage years could be trusted with a metal fork. That's what I kept telling myself, anyway. It's not like it was the family silver, handed down from generation to generation, polished especially for this grand affair. In fact, I think it was not even Walmart quality, but came in the mail from Fingerhut. I got it during my very first year of teaching, way back when I had my first household all to myself. 

You know what happened, right?

The party raged on, people finished eating, Genius and The Veteran and Hick continued drinking, a gang started a punting practice in the side yard (one member had been in a contest earlier that morning), and another group set to competing in a cornhole tournament in the front yard. I sat out front to socialize (yes, it nearly killed me), and when the next-to-last car headed up the driveway, I went inside to dish up leftovers for Genius, and wash the limited dishes.

Genius and Friend (his designated driver) sat and talked to me while I was washing up.

"You know, I never got back my little fork! Look! It's not in with all these others. What in the world could Sissy have done with that fork? Did she throw it away? Take it home to make a voodoo doll of me? A metal fork doesn't just disappear. Except for those four the night you moved away to college."

"I didn't take your forks! I've told you that a hundred times!"

"Don't get me started on the Apfelkorn!"

"I didn't take that, either! You need to chill. Have a beer."

"No thanks. I'm fine."

"It's JUST a fork. I don't know what she did with it."

As much as Genius tried to pull me out of my funk by changing the subject to a compliment on my physique from my past year of wise choices...I was still bitter over my missing fork. It may not have been worth much in money terms, but it had great sentimental value. Now I was down to THREE.

The next day, I told Hick that I sure did wonder what Sissy did with my fork. He looked all around the porch and by the grill, and over the side of the deck rail, but didn't find it.

"It HAS to be here. She probably threw it away. I'd look in the wastebasket, but Genius and Friend bagged that up and took it out while I was washing the dishes. I've got a good mind to go to the dumpster and go through that bag. It should be the one on top..."

"Oh. I put a bag in there from the BARn. And we had that one outside for the meat trays."

"Okay. The meat tray bag will be light."

"I know which one I put in from the BARn. It's tied in a knot. Not with a drawstring."

We went out to the side porch. I took my tall laundry basket and put a clean trash bag in it. The plan was to open the other one, and move items one at a time. Yes. Val is that crazy. Val is not proud. Didn't even wear gloves. Which I kind of regretted as I got to the shucked corn.

But you know what? As I got down to the very bottom of that trash bag...

I found my precious! And also that somebody had wasted a perfectly good hamburger that my dogs would have enjoyed for their evening snack. Upon excavation, it appeared that the sole purpose of my short metal fork was to eat (or not) the baked beans.

Yes, that picture was taken on the porch, on the chair right beside me. Don't know why it looks like it was after dark. I knocked off the beans and washed up my short fork and stashed it back in the drawer with its mates. I thought of telling Hick to take one with him on his Goodwill tours, to see if he can find four more. But that would be just like losing a short fork all over again.

I hope Hick doesn't plan on ever retiring again. I don't know if I can take the stress.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Val Waxes Ascetic

It's all over but the gripin'!

RetirementPartyPalooza is one for the record books now. Let the record show that attendance topped out at 17. That includes the guest of honor, your hostess Val, three sons, two spouses, six grandchildren, and four friends (with assorted romantic entanglements and live-in status). Val accepts each and every member of this crew with as much loving affection as her cold, cold heart can muster. The following tale of when people don't ever start being polite, but feel comfortable enough to be not meant to hurt any familial feelings, but only to serve as a release valve for Val's ready-to-blow top.

It is no secret that Val is a bit of a complainer. In fact, her Hick has often commented, "Val, you'd complain if you was hung with a new rope!" That's poppycock! As IF Hick would ever buy me a new rope! I'd get a rope from Goodwill, or the auction. A rope previously used by other complaining wives to hang themselves with, not knowing how good they had it with a NEW rope!

No, Val is not known for running a Shangri-La retreat offering unicorn rides, a fluffy kitten and baby rabbit petting zoo, an evening hug-a-thon, and free breakfast of sugar cubes and marshmallows drenched with treacle. Val has always been a complainer, and will always be a complainer. Just not to your face. It doesn't mean she harbors harsh feelings towards you. Only that she is irritated over not having control of a situation, and lets it out through her fingertips.

Let the record show that Val is NOT the hostess with the mostess. She is more like a surly Cerberus in reverse, who flings open the gates of Not-Heaven to hasten the exodus of souls from RetirementPartyPalooza. Too many people around are stressful to Val.

I'm not telling anybody how to raise their children. I was lucky enough that mine practically raised themselves. But in my parenting day, I'll be darned if I would have let my boys dine on a plate of dill pickle slices and potato chips. They would have at least a meat item, of which they must eat several bites. Also, Hick always decreed that each boy was allowed ONE can of soda, and if it grew hot, or was gulped in one swig, too bad, so sad. They weren't having unlimited beverages. AND they would find a way to entertain themselves before and after the meal. No whining. No clinging. No pouting. No running in and out of the house, whether at our home or as a guest.

Pardon me for quivering a bit as I tried to keep a civil tongue in my head and prevent my eyes from looking askance, when the front door slammed and bounced back open (from that doorknob issue that Hick never fixed) about eleventy-billion times, with youngsters scampering through the house to try and sit in front of the TV while sipping their 4th or 5th soda. Oh, don't worry that those kiddos were bloated with sugary soft drinks. It's not like they actually finished their first four sodas before getting their fifth! Also let the record show that my very own Pony was probably 15 years old before I let him take a soda into the living room!

No, I don't mean to be critical. I'm just a cranky old Val, set in my ways, having a hard time with the direction that society is taking. Val is not a village unto herself. Are we catering too much to the young 'uns? I know that the three sons were never raised this way, so they cannot be falling back on what they know.

It seems as if the standard operating procedure these days is to appear to be stern, while letting the inmates run the asylum children have their way. Not an indictment of Thevictorian offspring, but a comment on what I have observed from the public education trenches over the past decade or two. The family youngsters were polite and personable, not defiant, but didn't seem to feel a need to follow instructions, despite being given explicit hints. They were all school age. Not toddlers. Val is not a master of walking that tightrope between polite suggestion and critical correction of other people's kids. Stripped of her cape of teacher authority, she would just as soon not risk bossing without a net.

I stopped short of shaking my fist when the kids ran across the lawn. Okay. I really should have been shaking my fist to get the kids out of the living room and onto that lawn. But I'm not one to butt in with the raisin' of other folks' young 'uns, family or not. Nothing was destroyed, nothing was stained. I love them all. They are always welcome in our home. But I am allowed to vent.

The day after RetirementPartyPalooza, I pointed out the nearly full can of Pepsi on the porch to Hick, thinking he would at least pick up the empty Dr. Pepper at the other end. But no. It's still waiting for me. The empty Dr. Pepper, which was a bone of contention because, "We're out of Dr. Pepper and there's no soda that I like!" Heh, heh. I guess beggars for a fifth soda can't be choosers!

Oh, and beggars for a fifth soda suffer must suffer from Butterfingers Syndrome. Because when running around the porch clutching a Pepsi, the can got loose, bounced and rolled along the boards to the edge, where it teetered, unrescued, until it fell onto the lava rocks below, and began spraying its sugary goodness all over other lava rocks and the brick sidewalk and the porch lattice. To Hick's credit, he DID pick up the half-full Pepsi and the mostly-full juice pouch from the living room when I pointed them out and made no sign of moving them.'s not like I bought the soda. One of the three sons brought that. It's just the principle of the matter. Whew! This venting has made me feel better. Okay. Not completely better. There's one other little issue that you will hear about tomorrow. And it's a doozy.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Swag From RetirementPartyPalooza

Were any of you surprised that Hick was actually surprised with his family retirement party?

Hick is not one to pick up what you're layin' down. You pretty much have to spell things out for him. Without actually spelling, of course. He misses gently-nuanced hints, and blurts out things that most people would keep to themselves. Yeah. Maybe I AM still bitter about that time he told me my skirt reminded him of a circus tent. The colors, he insisted! And that time he told me I was like an elephant. Citing my superior memory, of course!

Uh huh. It really shouldn't surprise anyone that we pulled this off. Let's face it. Hick couldn't find his own butt with two hands, an LED work light that I bought him on Friday, and a souped-up Garmin designed by Genius.

The boys had all forked over chipped in (one of them under duress, I fear) money for Hick's gift. It ended up being just that. Money. Which made me feel bad, because we don't need their money. The party itself was enough (I speak for Hick), no need for a present. Though if it had been an actual present, I would have felt better about it.

Something else that gave me pause was that somehow, it turned into a party for me, too! That's not right! I'm not the one who just retired. I didn't try to guilt them into including me by asking, "Where was MY retirement party last May?" No siree, Bob! I didn't want this to be about me. They even had both our names on the card. That's not right, I tell you! Because if that was the's really not right to ask Val to throw her own surprise party! It was kind of a moderate amount of work.

Anyhoo...aside from a cash gift, Hick received THIS from The Veteran:

It's pretty fancy. As you can see, somebody sampled it during the party. Probably Hick and The Veteran. Maybe Genius. Hick was carrying on about how he was on his THIRD beer! "I don't know WHEN the last time was I had more than two beers! I even saved two from when I had pizza last week, so I would have them while I grilled today."

Also, we got this gift from Friend, with a card saying that now that Hick was retired, and we'd be together every day, these might come in handy:

Heh, heh! And of course Hick said seriously, "Look! We can protect ourselves up to 32 decibels!" That would matter to a working man like Hick. Gotta love the sensibilities of Friend! He's like a son to us.

Because it is better to give than to receive...Genius left with a fancy office chair that Hick gave him. Actually, it belonged to my mom, a rolly chair with a high back and padded arms, leather or leather-like, that we had given her for Christmas one year, to sit at her computer. Genius was bemoaning the fact that the great office chair he'd bought himself at a Goodwill a few years back, that had only one arm, but was otherwise perfect...was failing, and that he was looking for another such chair. Hick said that he had my mom's old one in his Railroad Car Shack, and didn't really need it there. So he gave it to Genius.

That's the old Goodwill chair, before Genius took it with him to college. I didn't get a picture of the new old chair. It all happened so fast!

AND, I caught Genius rummaging around under the kitchen sink, sniffing my collection of Bath and Body Works soaps that I use at the kitchen sink for handwashing...and before I knew it, he had appropriated three for his apartment, and told Friend that he could have one for his house. Even though he lives with his parents right now, working a full time job making more than I did during my final year of teaching! Then Genius made his exit, with four uncooked hamburger patties, two hot dogs, two bratwurst, a pack of buns, a container of potato salad, and the remainder of the beans.

Yes, everyone had a good time, I think. As good a time as 25 pounds of meat, five pounds of potato salad, and a cooler full of two-month-old leftover float trip beer can provide.

Tomorrow...the dark side of RetirementPartyPalooza.

Monday, September 18, 2017

You Can Fool All of the People Some of the Time, and Some of the People All of the Time, but You Can Fool Hick Any Old Time

A surprise retirement party for Hick? How is THAT supposed to work, you might ask. How are you going to fool him, now that he's retired and underfoot 24/7/365?

When Genius proposed the party, originally scheduled for the weekend after Hick retired, I thought we might be able to pull it off. The only problem being whether Hick would be home and unsurprisable, or gone to an auction and unavailable.

Genius discovered that getting his three brothers corralled on the same weekend was no easy task. Especially on Labor Day Weekend. As it was, The Pony could not make it any weekend, due to the long travel time. So he was here in spirit, but mainly in finances. The surprise party was rescheduled for this past Saturday, September 16.

I used my well-developed half-truth skills to make sure Hick would be here at 2:00 p.m., the time Genius and The Veteran planned to start grilling. So I casually asked Hick, "Do you think we could barbecue on Saturday? We didn't do anything for Labor Day. You could do a little bit of everything, and we'd have it to eat for supper through the week."

"Yeah. I think I can do that."

"If you start at 2:00, then you'll have time to do whatever you do in the mornings, and still leave for the auction by 6:00."

"Okay. I'll grill at 2:00."

Easy peasy. Hick was locked in at the proper time period. THEN commenced the preparations. Genius was bringing leftover light beer from the Boys State float trip, and The Veteran and HOS were bringing soda and chips. I was taking care of the meat and potato salad and beans. Genius said he'd whip up a couple of desserts, which ended up being Rice Krispie treats and lemon bars.

You'd think Hick would have noticed the two giant packs of pork steaks, the 20-pack of jumbo hot dogs, the dozen bratwursts, and the 24 hamburgers. But no. I suppose that it was just answer to his carnivore dreams. The dozen ears of corn were still in the back of T-Hoe, along with 7 bags of buns, and two packs of large sturdy paper plates, and a 24-serving pack of knives/forks/spoons.

I especially thought the bowl of 5 pounds of boiled potatoes left in FRIG II overnight, which he saw upon his return from the auction, would tip him off. But no. Hick said later, "I don't know how many potatoes it takes for your potato salad."

That's HALF of what it made. I know it doesn't look appetizing in that brown bowl in my kitchen that looks like it's in the bowels of the earth, due to my cell phone camera. The bowl was full to the brim. It made 4 tall Chinese soup containers of potato salad. (heh, heh, the abbreviation on that picture title was retirement party pot)

Anyhoo...Genius and his Friend arrived at 1:15. For a 2:00 party. At least he called me, and at least he was helping with preparations. Friend shucked corn (and Val didn't care) while Genius readied the grill and laid out foil for coating the corn with butter and cayenne pepper (only half of them). THEN The Veteran called and said he was almost there with his crew of 7, and it was only 1:30! I was still sweeping the kitchen floor! Oh, and not to be left out...HOS pulled up with his wife and son, his daughter and her boyfriend coming a little later.

So there they all were, standing awkwardly around my kitchen, watching me slice onions and tomatoes. Genius said, "You really need to have a beer." But I didn't. I had not planned on being in charge of entertainment! Only on providing the guest of honor in a timely manner, and the meat, and the venue. Finally most of them went outside, where it was hotter than the surface of the sun. I was dripping sweat inside, in the 74-degree air conditioning.

Meanwhile, Hick was missing. The last I'd seen him was an hour previous, when he'd said he was driving the Gator up to Buddy's house. Genius reported that the Gator was parked over by the BARn. So I figured Hick was in there, and would come over at 2:00 to start the grill. Which the boys already had going.

Then started the debate on how to notify Hick of his surprise party. I wanted him to walk over, unawares, and perhaps see some of the cars lining the driveway. If he'd come earlier, he would have just been pleasantly surprised that Genius had dropped by for a visit. But this was everyone. We don't even do that at Christmas!

The boys were antsy to get Hick surprised. HOS was going to go to the BARN and tell him I needed him at the house.Then he decided to send his 7-year-old on his bicycle. That worked.

As Hick walked past Shackytown, and saw us all standing on the porch and brick sidewalk, his face lit up. He's generally a happy person, but he was practically glowing. Especially when he saw Genius.

"What are all you guys doing here?"

"It's a retirement party for you!"

"A party?"

"Yeah. We're grilling."

"Oh. I though I was supposed to grill today. Did YOU know about this?"

"Yes! I thought sure you'd figured it out, with all that meat in the refrigerator."

"I don't pay no attention to that. We always grill a lot at once."

Let the record show that we are not in a habit of grilling 25 pounds of meat every time we barbecue.

Anyhoo...Hick cracked open a Michelob Dry (special purchase by Genius just for him) and set to telling the boys how to grill.

Even this morning, he commented on how surprised he was.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Doing Unto Tommy

You may recall that Hick and I have a neighbor, Tommy, whose elderly mother passed away earlier this year. Tommy has no means of support. No job. No transportation. He has questionable social skills. The more we have interacted with Tommy, the more his abilities remain a mystery. He seems to have had some college courses, and long ago worked at a fast food restaurant. He spent his time taking care of his elderly mother, and now has nothing but the mobile home and 10 acres it sits on.

Hick has been taking Tommy to town every week for shopping and banking, to save him the $35 cab fee. Tommy can also call the local transport system once a week for free. He has been looking for a job, because his money is running out. If I recall correctly, he told Hick a few months ago that he only had $2000 left.

Thursday, Tommy called to ask for a ride to the local job center run by a state agency. He said he'd call when he was ready to leave. Hick was surprisingly agreeable, and said he could fit it into his plans. He left around 11:00. When he got home from dropping off Tommy, Hick of course had a story to tell.

"I told Tommy that I heard a place over in Bill-Paying Town is hiring telemarketers. Tommy said he knew, and that they said they could give him a job, but he didn't have transportation. I told him, 'Tommy, you're wasting your time looking for work if you don't have a way to get there.' Then he got real quiet."

"You didn't hurt his feelings, did you?"

"No. He was thinking. I guess he thinks that someone is going to drive him to work and pick him up every day. I'm not going to do that. I said, 'What you need to do is get you a $500 car so you can get back and forth, and get a job, and then you can look for something better. I guess he thinks somebody is going to buy him a car."

I paused. I looked at Hick. I was not sure how he was going to take what I was about to say.

"Just yesterday, on the way to town, I was thinking about Tommy. About how it wouldn't kill us to help him get a car. We could get it and let him pay us back $20 a week once he gets a job. Would it really hurt us to spend $1000 for a car? We gave that Caravan to your guy at work, and let him pay us back. If I have to, I can use some of my gambling stash."

"Yeah. I could go buy a car and give it to him. But nothing over $1000!"

"And it will be in HIS name! I don't want to deal with it. It's on him."

"Yeah. I'll put it in his name. He'll have to buy his own gas and insurance."

"Does he even have his driver's license?"

"I think he does. He used to. I told him, 'Tommy, you could even get your CDL license, and drive a truck. They pay insurance, too.' But he said, 'I don't HAVE a CDL!' And I told him, 'That's why I said you could get it.'"

I can't really imagine the conversations between these two!

Anyhoo...Hick went out to watch his concrete crew work on his new garage, with a plan of going back to pick up Tommy at 1:30. I headed off to town for some errands and my 44 oz Diet Coke. When I got back, there was a message on the phone from Tommy. "Hick...this is Tommy. I'm ready to leave now." The time of the call was 12:45. The time I saw it was 1:25. I figured Hick was already there to pick up Tommy, but probably hadn't known to go earlier, because the phone had showed a NEW message, that hadn't been listened to, and if Hick had been in the house, he would have picked up.

When Hick got back, he had more stories. "Tommy asked me to take him to the Catholic Church tomorrow morning to get some food. The people where he was working on his resume told him they have a food pantry. And the place here in town in the old bowling alley, too. I told him, 'Tommy, I can't tomorrow. I've got an appointment at 9:30. But I can take you on Monday. Do you have food?' Tommy said oh, yes, he had food. But he was out of milk and juice, but he guessed he could drink water until then. I told him I'd take him on Monday, and also to the bowling alley place, which is right by the mushroom factory. I said, 'Tommy, you can go in and put in an application. The radio says they're hiring.' And he said, 'Will they let me do that?' So I told him, 'All you can do is try. The worst they can do is tell you no.' And I also told him I'll take him by Hardee's to fill out an application, since he worked there before, he says. I told him he should take any job he can get, to bring in some money, and he can still keep looking for a better one."

"Did you mention the car idea? Did he think he could do that?"

"I told him that if they asked if he had transportation, he should say yes. I told him that I'll drive him to work and pick him up for two weeks, and that we'll get him a car that he can pay us for out of his earnings."

"Did he say that was okay?"

"Well, he ducked his head and kind of cried a little."

"Oh, no! Did he not want to do it?"

"It was about the same time I told him I couldn't take him to the Catholic Church on Friday. So I don't know if it was about that, or about the car. I think the whole situation is getting real now that he's out of money, and he's just overwhelmed. But when I dropped him off, he said, "Thank you for trying to help me."

"I think he just doesn't know how to plan ahead for anything. Like when he calls, he always wants to go right then."

"Yeah, and I've told him to call my cell phone number, because I'm not in the house. But he always calls the house. I guess I just assumed he had caller ID, but he probably doesn't. I don't know if I ever gave him my cell number. I need to write it down for him."

We'll see what happens tomorrow on their job search trip. I don't know if Hick is going to let Tommy look at cars with him, or just get the best one he can for the money. He already asked Tommy if he could drive a stick, and Tommy said no.

Hick is really good at telling lemons from reasonable used cars. And pretty good at helping people, too.