Monday, December 31, 2018

What Val Needs Is a Second Helping

Val needs a second helping. Not another serving of food. No siree, Bob! What I'm talking about is more help. Hick helping me prepare a December 30th Christmas dinner is not enough. I need an additional person helping me after Hick helps me. I'm sure you understand.

In theory, Hick helping me is a good idea. Of course, he got up and drove to his Storage Unit Store, even though the temperature hovered around freezing, and it WAS a Sunday. He was trying to sell a pair of skis, which he says are worth around $600, and he's willing to part with for $100. I advised him that all his deals have fallen through, because there's no snow. Let the ground get covered, and those skis will sell like hotcakes.

Anyhoo...Hick had two lookers coming to meet him, to see the skis in person, and to check the size, which nobody wants to believe over the phone exchanges. One was supposed to meet Hick before 10:00, because he was coming home to HELP me get our Christmas dinner ready to serve at noon. I'd done the majority of the preparations on Saturday, and only needed to cook three items, and warm the rest.

Let the record show that Hick's morning customer did not show up, and he returned home by 10:00 as promised. I'd just put some potato casserole and green bean bundles in the oven, and was headed to the shower.

"You can clean up your junk around the table, and wipe it off and set it. Plates, bowls, silverware. We don't have napkins, so we'll use paper towels. But fold them, so they don't look like paper towels."

Simple enough, right?

I returned from the shower to see that Hick had indeed set the table, and his junk was removed from the area. I only glanced. It's not like I did a white glove inspection. Hick had saved me some time. I took out the potatoes and green beans, and put in the ham and turkey to warm, and the roasted vegetables.

No. One potato dish ISN'T good enough for Thevictorians. When I asked Genius which wanted, the roasted potatoes/carrots/onions, or the hash brown casserole, his reply was: "I like the roasted veggies, but Friend likes the hash brown casserole better." Well. My actions could be interpreted like saying you love one child more that the other. Friend is like family, and I couldn't deny him his hash browns.

I made a 7-Layer Salad, and stirred up the gravy, and got the rolls ready to bake. I was washing up the dishes I'd used so far, with about 30 minutes until serving time, when I looked at The Table Hick Set. Let the record show that Val uses Bounty Select-A-Size Paper Towels. You tear them off, and it's like half a regular paper towel. A rectangle. That's what Hick had laid out as a napkin.

"Oh. I said to fold the paper towels. So they look like napkins, not paper towels."

"Huh. I set them out like napkins."

"Fold them in half."

I guess I should have been more specific about the folding. When I looked over the kitchen sink to see Hick's correction, I was amazed. Not in a good way.

Not sure where Hick has been dining, that gives him a long skinny napkin. Or as I described it, "A napkin shaped like a ruler." As you might imagine, I commanded told asked Hick to fold the paper towels the other way. And to give everybody a spoon. I was pleasantly surprised to see his third try:

Yes. I was pleasantly surprised with the diamond arrangement. Which is not to say I was feeling pleasant. I could forgive all utensils being on the same side of the plate. But Hick had still neglected to set out bowls for the salad. We won't even discuss a salad fork and a regular fork, since people have a habit of THROWING AWAY my salad forks!'s not like we eat off a linen tablecloth, and have linen napkins, or even clear away that 40-year-old jade plant that we have spent years ignoring, or the fake yellow flowers that came off my mom's kitchen table. But STILL... I don't think having a spoon, and a bowl to eat your salad, are asking too much of Hick.

I just need that second helping, to come by helping correct Hick's helping.

For those of you worried about Hick's skis... he got a text at 12:45, as we were finishing up our meal, from the guy he was supposed to meet at 4:00, who said he was 15 minutes away, and wanted to see the skis. Of course Hick abandoned his 3rd-born son Genius, visiting for only 2 hours and 25 minutes to eat dinner and open presents, so he could meet a stranger for ski business.

Let the record show that Hick returned home at 1:15, having sold his skis, $100 richer.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Oh, What a Tangled Web We Weave, When to Give is Better Than to Receive

I had a gift picked out to give Genius this year. He isn't coming home for Christmas until December 30th. Which is TODAY! Actually, he has other gifts, but this one practically had his name on it! In retrospect, I wish it DID have his name on it, because it would have been easier to obtain.

It's no secret that Genius likes his liver, and his liver likes alcohol. It must! Because it keeps processing whatever Genius gives it, practically like he's still on his college liver. Genius has a bar in his apartment, too. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, and Hick has his own BARn, you know, even though he doesn't utilize it often. So... a bottle of alcohol (or 12) is a welcome gift for Genius.

Okay, I'm just joking with that 12 bottles of alcohol. Yes, I DID get Genius 12 bottles, but they're those little airline size bottles, in a Jack Daniels gift set, with 8 different flavors in 12 bottles. Which means some flavors have two bottles. One of them unfortunately being Fireball, which I learned on CasinoPalooza 3 that Genius's liver doesn't really stomach very well. Anyhoo... I forget all the others, but I'm pretty sure they also included vanilla, green apple, maple, regular, black label and something else. I'm not unwrapping it to tell you.

The main gift I had in mind, though, I saw at The Gas Station Chicken Store back in October. It was a boxed set of Crown Royal with two tumblers or whatever you call whiskey glasses, which had the state of Missouri on them! So I filed that away in my Christmas gift mental notes, intending to pick one up later.

I DID purchase such a gift, on December 17th, but ended up feeling sorry for near-Christmas-birthday-boy Hick not having many presents, and gave it to him the next day. Hick is a collector, you know, and likes alcohol-related glassware for his BARn.

Anyhoo... I knew Genius wouldn't be coming to unwrap gifts until December 30th (TODAY!), so I was in no rush to pick up another such Crown Royal box for him. In fact, it wasn't until December 23rd that I was out running around, buying prizes for the Christmas Eve gamefest at the home of my sister the ex-mayor's wife, with saved-all-year Christmas cash in my pocket, that I decided to purchase (heh, heh, I first typed that as purshase, as if I'm a lush and slurring my words!) the Crown Royal for Genius.

I was in The Gas Station Chicken Store, standing in line with my 44 oz Diet Coke, looking at two of those gift sets on the shelf. Huh. I didn't want to try and carry it with my magical elixir, because dropping either one on the way to T-Hoe would be a tragedy. Nor did I want to make another trip back in, because I was tired from prize-shopping and ready to get home for lunch. So I figured I'd come back the next morning and pick it up.

Well. I bopped into The Gas Station Chicken Store, cash in hand, to buy my whiskey at 11:30 a.m. on Christmas Eve... AND THEY WERE OUT! Not a box of Crown Royal on the shelf. I guess a lot of people must have a 24-year-old son coming home for Christmas whose liver likes whiskey! I even asked the clerks if they were all out, not even having the good sense to feel ashamed to be seeking whiskey at 11:30 a.m., since I am a teetotaler. They referred me to the Man Owner, and he said that he was sorry, but yes, he was out.

I went about my other business, and upon returning home, shared my tale of woe with Hick. Who, after some major stinkeye on my part, said, "Well...I guess you could give him mine." But really, did I want to of those people who give someone something, and then take it back? No siree, Bob!

I knew I'd seen the same thing in Walmart a couple weeks ago, but we were headed to Sis's Christmas Eve dinner, and Walmart would be closed on Christmas Day, and no way was I going to Walmart on the day after Christmas. Long story about to get longer... I went on Friday, and was glad to see that Walmart still had four of those Crown Royal gift boxes with the state of Missouri glasses. But they all looked like THIS:

Uh huh. The tops were open! What's up with THAT? Did somebody buy them and return them because other people's kids' livers didn't like Crown Royal? Or was it a malfunction with the glue at the Crown Royal Gift Box factory? Come to think of it, The Gas Station Chicken Store had taped down the box lids. I remember, because they had three boxes on the shelf when I bought Hick's, and I checked all three of them, looking for one untaped.

Anyhoo... Hick wrapped that box of Crown Royal for Genius yesterday. He'd better like it!

Saturday, December 29, 2018

A PeeK Into the Life of CENTSless Val

Well. Even Steven saw fit to give me absolutely NO PENNIES this week! Sheesh! I'll never make Pennyillionaire that way! Last week's totals still stand.

For 2018: Pennies still at # 129.
For 2018: Dimes still at  # 17.
For 2018: Nickels still at # 6.
For 2018: Quarter still at #1.

Since March 2017 (the beginning), this is still Penny # 207.
Since March 2017 (the beginning), this is still Dime # 23.
Since March 2017 (the beginning), this is still Nickel # 6.
Since March 2017 (the beginning), this is still Quarter #1.

I may have gotten the short end of the penny-stick, but I can't leave you without a story...

Oh, the places I go and the sights that I see! Some of which can't be unseen.

Val is a giver, you know. So I'm going to share with you. No need to thank me! Just my little post-Christmas gift to you.

Hey! Did you know that camouflage doesn't really keep people from seeing you at the edge of the woods, just past Orb K's drive-thru lane, after you've staggered over there to pee?
It's true!

Perhaps Country Drunk-kin should have gone farther into the foliage. You bet I snapped his picture! Val does not suffer a public urinator gladly. Good thing he wasn't doing that in a parking garage, or I'd have had him hauled in by security!

I had my phone already down and out of sight by the time he turned around, and had started T-Hoe in preparation for backing out of my parking space. I guess Country Drunk-kin noticed T-Hoe's headlights (probably wanted to let me know about my burned-out running light that still hasn't been replaced by Hick even though he has a replacement on hand), and realized he might have been seen. He walked deeper into the sparse woods, but I could still see him.

And now YOU can, too!

Friday, December 28, 2018

The Synchronicity of Swingin' England

We left home Christmas Eve with Hick at the wheel of A-Cad, to sweave our way to town for dinner at the home of my sister the ex-mayor's wife. We were still on the county blacktop road when a discussion ensued concerning the menu.

"What are you going to eat, Pony?"

"Depends if she still has the same stuff. I really like those Vienna Sausages."

"Um. Sis doesn't serve Vienna Sausages. She has the Li'l Smokies in barbecue sauce."

"Oh. Aren't they the same thing? I'm sure they are."

"NO! They're totally different. The Li'l Smokies are smoked sausages, made of beef, mainly. And Vienna Sausages come in a can, packed in that jelly kind of stuff, and are made of pork and chicken and fat."

"Well. I'm pretty sure they're really the same thing. Listen to YOU, Miss I Didn't Know England Was An Island!"

"It's well known that my geography knowledge is lacking. But I DO know one thing...England swings like a pendulum do!"

"Heh, heh. I'm pretty sure that's LONDON!"

"Nope! It used to be one of your favorite songs when it came on the radio. Over by the park, on the way to school! I haven't heard it in a long time. I think it was during the summer. It made me think of you."

Even Hick backed me up on both arguments. A rare occasion. If I'd had the calendar I knew Ex-Mayor was giving us, I would have marked it.

We were barely five more minutes into our trip when Hick turned up the volume on the radio. "There's your song."

Seriously! It was "England Swings," playing right there on Willie's Roadhouse, sung by Roger Miller.

What are the odds of THAT?

In fact, that's what I said, turning to look at The Pony. "What are the odds of THAT?"

"Heh, heh. I guess the car is listening to us again."

"It's not the CAR! It's OnStar! One of these days you'll believe me!"

I don't think that's what made the song play right after we were talking about it, though. Even I can't conspiratorily, egotistically think that SiriusXM changed the playlist on Willie's Roadhouse just for our discussion.

It's just one of those weird coincidences, letting you know your life is on the right track, I guess.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

The Monday-Wednesday-Friday Ghost (Part 2)

Perhaps I should have changed yesterday's title. Looks like the MWF Ghost came for an extended stay.

THIS Monday, which was Christmas Eve, I wiped off my glasses with half a Bounty Select-A-Size paper towel. I carefully set them on my glasses case as usual, noting that the time was 5:15 p.m. We were leaving at 5:30 for dinner at my sister the ex-mayor's wife's house. As I started upstairs, I told The Pony, who was laying on his gaming couch:

"I just wiped off my glasses. I really hope they aren't smudged next time I check. Because I made SURE not to touch the lenses. Only the side pieces."

After some raucous festivities at Sis's house, we returned home shortly after 11:00 p.m. I went down to my dark basement lair, where I've been keeping the lights on. It was 11:28. I sat down and picked up my glasses by their side pieces. I held them up to the light. There was a fingerprint on my left bifocal!

I call it a fingerprint, but it wasn't like I could see the whorls, or a forensics expert could run a check on the criminal database. It was a smudge, though, like part of a fingerprint. HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN?

When I got ready to leave my lair for the night, and go sit in my OPC (Old People Chair), I again wiped off my glasses, making sure they were totally without anything on the lenses. I again touched only the side pieces, and set them down on my glasses case.

Christmas morning, I told The Pony, "YOU go down and get my glasses for me. Bring them out to my OPC, so I have them for opening gifts. Check them first, to see if there's anything on them."

When I got downstairs, The Pony said, " probably don't want to hear this...but there's something on your glasses."

Yep. A smudge on the left bifocal.


The Pony just came into my office as I was typing the update. It is 7:26 p.m. on Tuesday, Christmas evening. The Pony has been asleep on the gaming couch since about 3:30, with a pillow over his head. His glasses were laying on the coffee table in front of the couch. I'm sure you have guessed by now that when he woke up, THERE WAS A SMUDGE, AS IF A FINGERPRINT, on the left lens of his glasses!

"That was NOT on there when I took them off for my nap!"


I was standing in line at Country Mart today (Wednesday), with a cart containing two packs of Sister Schubert's rolls, a bottle of Blue Cheese Dressing, a loaf of Ozark Hearth 21 Grains and Seeds Bread, two six-pack bottles of Diet Mountain Dew, an 8-pack of mini Diet Coke bottles, and an 8-pack of mini Sprite bottles, plus a bag of butter-flavored Puffcorn for The Pony...when he sent me a text:

"You won't like to hear this, but I could've sworn I saw something standing in your office when I went by it to the bathroom."

"NOOO!!! I just got chills."

It was a bit creepy, descending the stairs to my lair once I got home shortly after 2:00. Hick was gone to buy ax handles. The Pony was in town to scam some wi-fi from McDonald's to load game updates. He had turned off the TV (we leave it on to fool robbers, don't tell!). The day was dark and dreary. I didn't notice anything amiss, other than the scent of the peaches and cream candle The Pony and I had been burning in the basement last night. He saw this morning that it was still burning, and blew it out.

My lair smelled strongly of the extinguished candle. I didn't get a creepy vibe at all, though. I set down my lunch of a can of Sardines in Mustard Sauce and a slice of bread, and my 44 oz Diet Coke and two bubba cups of ice, turned on my under-desk heater and New Delly, and sat down in my broken-armed rolly chair. The moment of truth had arrived. I picked up my glasses, which I had painstakingly cleaned before leaving them on the open case last night.

Please disregard my linty mouse pad and two acetaminophen for later pain management and the water spots on my purple bubba cup to focus on THE SMUDGE ON MY LEFT BIFOCAL!

Well. That was a bit disconcerting, but not totally unexpected. Good thing I hadn't yet heard the full story, straight from The Pony's mouth.

"Yeah. I was walking to the bathroom, looking down at the floor. When I got to about the TV [little one used for gaming when they were kids, on a cart across from the NASCAR bathroom], something caught my attention in your office. I glanced up, and saw a dark figure. Maybe as tall as halfway up that poster." [about 5 feet high]

"Was it over by the poster?" [on the back wall]

"No. It was right here." [just inside the door]

"Was is solid? See-through? Moving?"

"Not really solid."

"Like a miasma?"

"Yeah. I guess that's the best description of it. When I looked right at it, it wasn't there."

Draw your own conclusions. Twirl the crazy-finger if you must.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Monday-Wednesday-Friday Ghost (Part 1)

Last Monday, we returned home from CasinoPalooza 3 around 4:00. Shortly after 5:00, Hick drove to town to pick up pizza from Orb K. We thought The Pony would like to try it, since he's a crust fan, and this pizza has crust kind of like a homemade Chef Boyardee deep dish pizza that The Pony enjoys.

I was puttering around in the kitchen after The Pony filled his plate and headed down to his gaming couch in the basement with it. It was only a couple minutes until he hollered upstairs.

"Hey, Mom. I was already to the couch, and I heard a loud noise. I turned around, and that blue chair was rocking really fast. I guess the noise was the broom falling over. I know I didn't touch that chair. I even tried walking into it, and it didn't rock. It moved sideways like I pushed it. Anyway, I set the broom back up."

Wednesday night was the Survivor finale. I always record Survivor, and Hick comes to the basement to watch with me when he gets back from the auction. This time, he'd said he probably wouldn't watch Survivor with me that night, since it was the 2-hour finale, and he'd be up too late. But he hollered down to ask if I was going to watch. I stopped my New-Delly-ing, and went out to get the DVR ready.

I was setting my purple bubba cup of ice water on the TV tray that acts as an end table, beside my OPC (Old People Chair), when I heard a "CRACK!" It was the sound of the broom falling from the old blue chair to the tile floor.

"Huh. That's funny! The broom did that to The Pony on Monday night. Fell over for no reason."

"You must have hit the chair," said Hick, who wasn't even watching, being mesmerized by The Amazing World of Gumball cartoon that The Pony had on the TV.

"No. I didn't touch the chair. I know how to walk! I walk around down here all the time without hitting the chair. And it wasn't even moving when I turned around!"

"Yeah. Unlike mine, where it was rocking forward and backward," contributed The Pony.

"Well. Maybe you didn't. Funny things happen sometimes."

I swear I had not touched that chair! I've been walking out there for 18 years, and I don't run into that chair.

Friday afternoon, I sent a text to The Pony at 12:37 p.m.

"Home in 15 minutes if someone can help me carry in."

"Ok. The chair did the thing again."

When I got home, I had a few questions for The Pony.

"When did that happen? Just curious."

"It was sometime after noon. Maybe a half hour before your text."

"Huh. I stopped by the cemetery at 12:15 or 12:20. I only stayed a minute, because there was an old couple a few graves down from Grandma's, putting out flowers. Then I ran in Country Mart for bread and bowls and peanut butter, and texted you when I came out."

Sometimes coincidences are kind of interesting. On Saturday afternoon, when I got down to my dark basement lair and picked up my glasses...there were fingerprints on the bifocal part. So much that I had to wipe them off. I hate getting fingerprints on my glasses. My Puffs have lotion on them, you know. And are not good for cleaning glasses. So I even put my glasses up on my head when I blow my nose, so nothing gets smudged on them while wiping my nostrils. I hadn't had a smudge on my glasses since last Christmas when The Pony was home.

"PONY! Did you or Dad get my glasses out of my office? When he was wrapping presents on the pool table yesterday?"

"No. I didn't get them. I didn't see him go in there."

When I went down to my lair on Sunday, and saw that my glasses were smudged with fingerprints on the bifocals AGAIN, I asked Hick about it when I went upstairs.

"Did you use my glasses while you were in the basement?"

"No, Val. I didn't use your glasses."

"Well, there were fingerprints on them for two days in a row."

"Huh. Maybe your mom or dad is trying to tell you something."

I'm not saying that. Just that weird things are happening while The Pony is home. I even heard walking in Genius's bedroom Saturday night around 1:30 a.m.


Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas Came Early For Genius

I might have let it slip that our family Christmas celebration this year was CasinoPalooza 3. Hick and I met The Pony and Genius just across the Missouri border into Oklahoma. We chose the weekend Genius could get away from work, and The Pony was finished with finals and on the way home. I gifted them with money that could be used as their casino bankroll, or socked away for gifts they wanted to buy themselves. Both chose to put some away, and use the rest for wagering.

CasinoPalooza 3 was only a winning extravaganza for Genius. The rest of us had our ups and downs. You know how it goes. Well...maybe you don't, if you're not a gambler. Anyhoo, you win a little, and then play it back, and before you know it, your profit is gone. I can avoid that if I cash out every time I double my money or better, and save the tickets until we leave. Otherwise, not so much. Easy come, easy go.

I had a couple decent wins, but nothing spectacular.

A little Buffalo Gold bonus for $244.05

And a timely Dancing Drums bonus of $129.70 when I had just put in a twenty, won a couple bucks, and upped my bet from $.88 to $1.76.

And because Val is a fairly lucky name was called as a promotions winner at The Stables Casino, about five minutes after we got there and claimed our free $5 Old People play. I've shown you the screen with my prize, which was $20 of HorsePlay, meaning free play on one of their machines designated as part of their Party Zone. But because I'm a gambler, such luck didn't hold, and I played it back in until it was gone.

Funny how I saw Friend playing a game, which had some kind of buffalo standing up top, which would stomp the ground and shower the playing area with bonuses and wilds. In fact, Friend was at the left end of three identical machines, and I sat down at the right end of the row. He won over $100 pretty quick, and moved over to the middle machine, where he also won over $100 in a few spins. Well! My machine wasn't doing anything. The buffalo would stop, but I got nothing! Friend went off to tell Genius of his good fortune, and I moved to the machine on the left end. As I was playing it, Genius and Friend returned, along with The Pony. Genius sat down to play the middle machine, and you guessed it, immediately won over $100. I continued to play, getting nothing for my buffalo stomps, while Friend apologized, saying he never said I should play it.

At our next casino, Buffalo Run, we all convened in the back room (except for Hick), and went our separate ways, playing different kinds of machines. I was just leaving The Pony after finding him along the back wall when Friend ran up exclaiming that Genius had just won $230! Of course I went to see, since it was on my way to the bathroom, where I was headed (too much free Diet Coke!).

Genius sat at a penny machine betting $.40 a spin, at a slot with 7 reels, the theme being 7s, with different colored 7s spinning around, sometimes on fire. I don't play this game, so I wasn't familiar with its particulars. I wish I'd gotten a picture. When I walked up, Genius was at game 20 of 45 free spins, and his jackpot was still accumulating. It was like that machine wouldn't stop giving him free spins. At the time he reached his last one, Genius's bonus had won over $400!

Of course Genius and Friend were giddy with delight. It didn't hurt that they'd each had a couple of drinks. As the slot was counting the bonus money over into the total money, I left them and headed on to the bathroom. When Genius found me later, he had more to tell.

"The minute you left us, Mom, a security guy came over and asked to see our ID!"

"Well, you ARE younger than the rest of the clientele. So you kind of stand out."

"The bonus hadn't even finished counting out when he was on us!"

"Did you enjoy smugly flipping out your ID to show that you are 24 years old?"

"He thought Friend's ID was FAKE!" [Friend is only a few months younger than Genius]

"Yeah! People always think my ID is fake! They say, 'Why is the picture taken from so far away?'"

"Mine--remember MY ID? Mine is the opposite, too close to the camera!"

"Heh, heh, I had that picture set to come up on my phone when you called me! And it was the black-and-white copy they gave you until your license came in, so it looked even worse!" [I didn't have the courage to ask Genius if he was still using that photo for my calls]

"I get a new one in two months. So there."

"Anyway, that guy was being a real jerk about the IDs, and I wanted to say, 'They were good enough for your bartender every time we got drinks!' But I didn't."

"Probably just as well. He's only doing his job. They don't get many people in here of your tender age."

"He followed us everywhere we went, like he was trying to find a way to kick us out."

"Well, you can obviously smell that you've been drinking. So it's a good thing you behaved yourself."

Yes, Genius was thrilled with his win, and showed more restraint that the rest of us in gambling it back. Even with his drink budget, he went home with a nice chunk over his original Christmas gift bankroll.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Stake N Steak (Part 2: The Steak)

The Pony had been yearning for a steak dinner the first night of CasinoPalooza 3, but agreed to a deli meal of chicken tenders due to our location at suppertime. So on Sunday, I felt obligated to get him that steak. We had a big breakfast at the hotel buffet, skipped lunch, and ended up having that steak for lupper. The meal between lunch and supper.

It was around 4:00 when we had a chance to pencil in lupper. We put Friend on the task of looking up steakhouses in Miami, Oklahoma. That's pronounced "Mi AM Uh," (to save you future embarrassment if you find yourself in that neck of the plains).

"I see one that kind of looks like a bar, called The Parrot Steakhouse--"

"Um, NO."

"Okay. Because that's back where we just came from. There's some Mexican restaurants--"

"No. The Pony wants a steakhouse."

"There's Montana Mike's. It's right up here. I can see their sign."

"Okay. That sounds fine."

The parking lot and sign out front didn't look very promising. Once we entered, it really didn't look promising. The floor was down to concrete in some places, the tile worn or pulled off. They were ready to seat us, though. So it was full steam ahead.

Our table sat six. Hick, The Pony, and I sat on one side, with Genius across from me, and Friend across from The Pony. Of course my seat put my head in a ray of setting sun that could have doubled as the direct energy weapon that conspiracy theorists say started the California wildfires. I was pretty sure I wouldn't burst into flames, and pretty sure the sun would set before my meal arrived. I was half right.

Hick had the filet mignon and fries with a Caesar salad. The Pony had steak and fried shrimp with a Caesar salad and baked potato. Friend had a steak of some kind with a baked potato, and gave his Caesar salad to Genius. Genius had an avocado chicken wrap with fries. I had the teriyaki glazed chicken with fries and a garden salad, and immediately wished I had ordered broccoli instead of the fries. Too bad, so sad, I had to live with my unwise choice!

That's my garden salad, with raspberry vinaigrette dressing on the side, and the torn-off end of a roll I asked The Pony to share with me. Notice a ray of that direct energy weapon trying to set my salad ablaze!

This is my teriyaki glazed chicken on a bed of hidden rice, and the fries of regret. That chicken was DELICIOUS! The fries were good, too, though the guilt was difficult to stomach. Kind of like that cucumber slice, which stayed with me all night.

No, I didn't get a picture of everyone else's plate. What kind of person does THAT?

Everybody was full to the brim after our lupper. Genius couldn't finish his wrap. The Pony donated three shrimp to Hick. I left some fries on the plate. Friend was wise to forego the salad and make room for real food. And Hick is always a member of the clean plate club.

Our waitress was a spritely little thing, very polite and unobtrusive, and earned herself a nice tip. Consensus was that the food was great, we'd eat there again, and first impressions of this place were diametrically opposed to the end result.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Stake N Steak (Part 1: The Stake)

CasinoPalooza 3 Sunday saw Val & Co hit the highway to visit two casinos we missed the day before. Missed because we lacked the time, not because we overlooked them. One was an extra 20-minute drive, called Grand Lake Casino, where I don't like the machines, but it has good comps for first-time player's card patrons. When we were there the first time, they'd give you up to $50 free play to cover your losses if you lost at least $50. That time, Sis was with us, and won $100 on her compensatory free play!

This time, the comps had changed. Genius, Friend, and The Pony signed up for player's cards. Genius spun the comp wheel and won a hoodie with Grand Lake on it. He was not thrilled. Friend won $50 free play, right off the bat, not even needing to spend a penny of his own money. The Pony spun and won $50 CASH! He was thrilled.

We didn't plan to stay long. I went to an upper level, just killing time, and put a twenty into a Hot Red Ruby slot. You've probably never heard of it, since it's one of the Oklahoma bingo kind of slots that have random free red-screen spins. Anyhoo...I'd played four dollars' worth, and decided that I wasn't going to win anything there, so I hit the CASH OUT button. Huh. A screen popped up that the slot was out of paper. Great. I pushed the SERVICE button. I left my player's card in. I looked at the opening where the ticket comes out. Nothing. NO WAY was I walking off and leaving my $16. No siree, Bob!

It was 15 minutes before we were leaving. I looked over the rail, which was about three machines down, at the end of my row, and saw Genius playing a Harley slot, with Friend watching. On the row behind them was The Pony. And Hick walked by right under the rail as I was looking. I hollered to him, but he didn't look. The place was pretty loud with ringing bells from those red-screen slots. I waved my arms. Nobody saw me.

I went back to my slot to wait for a technician. I sent a text to Hick. And a text to The Pony.

"I am in the upstairs part waiting for an attendant to put in paper so I can cash out my $16!"

I didn't want them waiting up front wondering where I was. No response from either.

"Obviously I can't leave my machine to go get someone. I see them, but can't go and leave my $16 unattended."

 Still no response from anyone. A stranger walked up and looked at me.

"This machine needs paper, and I'm waiting on someone to service it. I don't know how fast they are around here."

"Good luck. They NEVER come!"

Great. Even a stranger left me hangin'.

"Not like any of you can help me..."

Crickets, I think, if I could hear them over the ringing bells of the red-screen slots.

" standing by my machine."

It was like an episode of The Twilight Zone. Like I was invisible.

"Hope you all enjoy yourselves waiting for me up front."

FINALLY, 13 minutes after I'd begun my frantic texting, I saw Friend coming up the steps. I can always count on Friend. Even though I hadn't sent a text to Friend or Genius. "Genius is in a bonus. Hick went to bring the car around and pick us up."

"Well, I'm trying to get somebody to put paper in here so I can get my $16 back!"

The Pony showed up. "I just now checked my phone. It doesn't get good signal in here."

"Wait right here. I'm going to look for someone."

I went down the ramp up front, and snagged a technician. "What's the matter, hon?"

"I've got a machine that ran out of paper, and I need my ticket for $16 out of it."

As I was taking him to the machine, I got a text from The Pony: "Your thing fully cashed out."

We were there by then. The Pony and Friend had found my ticket. It was barely showing an edge, and The Pony reached his fingers up in there and pulled it out."

"I'm so sorry! Looks like I got my ticket."

The technician was already opening up the slot. "It still needs paper, so I can do that while I'm here. Sorry about your wait."

We headed to the front door, where I cashed out my $16 in an ATM/Bill Breaker/Ticket Casher. Then we lost Genius, who went to trade small bills for bigger bills, and had to wait in line for somebody who dumped out a bucket of dimes and wanted to change them into bills.

Hick came storming in the front door, wanting to know where everybody was. When reminded of my text, he said, "I didn't get any text. My phone was in the car."

Sigh. That's kind of how the rest of my day went. My gambling stake took a big hit. But at least I had my $16 back!

Tomorrow: Part 2, The Steak

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Nearly a CENTSless Tragedy

After such a bountiful Future Pennyillionaire week last time, this week has been virtually penny-less for Val. Actually, it HAS been penny-less, because the lone penny I am sharing with you was found on SATURDAY, December 15th. Which is technically LAST WEEK!

At 7:27 a.m., a time not seen by Val in a long, long time...we made our first stop on the way to CasinoPalooza 3, to get gas at a Casey's in Potosi, MO. I normally remain in A-Cad while Hick goes inside for the bathroom, and then buys a donut. Just to make a transaction, you know, for the use of their bathroom. Purely for that reason, gas purchase apparently not counting as customertude.

Anyhoo...I went inside this time, to get a couple of scratchers for my Christmas gift stash. I also bought one for me and Hick, which were both $10 winners, not a portent of our future CasinoPalooza 3 fortune. While waiting for the clerk to tear off my tickets, I spied a penny!

It was under the Mentos and good-for-your-teeth gum. A face-down 1999 Lincoln, waiting there just for me.

Sadly, this penny did not bring me good luck on my gamblefest. I did not have access to HIPPY to add it to my Saturday CENTSus in time for its rightful week. So here it is today.

Let the record show that on Thursday, I saw a penny on the counter of The Gas Station Chicken Store, around the last-minute snacks they put there to try and sway me from my wise choices. I left it, because I don't think counter-pennies are fair game that close to the register. Even though it was nowhere near the Take A Penny dish. Val has SOME standards, you know.

In other news, I was counting up my accumulated change from cashing out tickets during CasinoPalooza 3, and found a WHEAT PENNY!

You don't see these relics much any more. There's an older version of Abe Lincoln on the front of this 1949 cent.

I gave it to Hick for his collection, without even asking for a replacement penny in return. Because I'm a giver like that.

For 2018: This was Penny # 129.
For 2018: Dimes still at  # 17.
For 2018: Nickels still at # 6.
For 2018: Quarter still at #1.

Since March 2017 (the beginning), this is Penny # 207.
Since March 2017 (the beginning), this is still Dime # 23.
Since March 2017 (the beginning), this is still Nickel # 6.
Since March 2017 (the beginning), this is still Quarter #1.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Val, the 5th Wheel

CasinoPalooza 3 commenced at breakneck speed, with Hick trying to ferry us around to six other casinos on Saturday afternoon. We came close, but eschewed one that is not a favorite, vowing to hit it the next day.

Our travels put us at River Bend Casino in Wyandotte, Oklahoma, near supper time. The Pony had his heart (and taste buds) set on steak, but agreed to put that off until the next day as well. So we supped at the deli in River Bend. I had the chicken tenders with fries and slaw, Hick had a quarter pound hot dog and loaded baked potato, The Pony had the chicken tenders and onion rings, Friend had a chicken sandwich and fries, and Genius had something I can't remember, perhaps a wrap of some kind.

Anyhoo...while I was helping myself to a cup of Diet Coke from the soda fountain, and BBQ sauce from the pumper thingy, the guys went around the corner and chose a table. Huh. They moved two round tables together, and picked their seats. (Heh, heh! My 13-year-old self just typed: PICKED THEIR SEATS!) This left me with a choice of sitting at a table with Genius and Friend, or at the other table with Hick and The Pony. Kind of.

As you can see, I was in No-Woman's Land. Neither fish nor foul. A gal without a table. Two tables diverged in a casino deli, and I couldn't couldn't choose one less occupied by, because neither had room for me. If the tables had remained separate, I could have sat at one. The way it was, I had to sit in between, and have part of my stuff on one table, and part on the other. Just another indignity to which I've sadly grown accustomed.

Oh, and Hick said he'd get me a cup of ketchup as he went back for his soda.

How sad is THAT? Hick is obviously not a ketchup lover like The Pony and Val. Thank goodness The Pony volunteered to go get me some REAL ketchup, not just a couple drops! You may notice that Hick has two cups of Diet Coke. Imagine if I'd volunteered to bring him soda, and set down a cup with a couple sips.

Too bad I was so involved in chowing down that I didn't get a picture of my plate. The slaw was excellent! The chicken and fries were above average. Our culinary gaming tour will continue after the Saturday CENTSus.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

CasinoPalooza 3 Begins

This year CasinoPalooza 3 was without my sister the ex-mayor's wife and the ex-mayor. They had family matters that needed tending, but hope to put together a forthcoming CasinoPalooza.

Hick and I met up near Joplin on Saturday, with The Pony, who traveled 4 hours from Norman, Oklahoma, and Genius and Friend, who rolled in from Kansas City, a 2.5 hour drive. Hick and I hit the road at 6:30 a.m., since our journey takes 5 hours, plus pit stops. It was our Christmas holiday family retreat, a tour of 7 casinos. We'd all been a couple years ago, and Genius asked to do it again this year, preferably over a weekend, because he's a real working man now, and doesn't get a month off at Christmas like a college student. Of course it was a hardship for me to devote a weekend to a casino tour, but I got through it.

Just as we stopped for gas before entering the dead zone where cell phones don't exist...The Pony sent a text that he was running a little behind, and would arrive at 12:30 or 12:45, rather than noon as planned. Well. Hick and I couldn't drive back home for that extra half hour of sleep. I debated on telling Genius, so he could delay his departure. However, in the dead zone, that was impossible.

After Hick and I treated ourselves to a McDonald's Sausage Egg McMuffin in St. James, we heard from Genius. Who said they would be leaving a little late, since Friend had misplaced something, and time had been taken up finding it. Well. These things happen for a reason, I think, and that put Genius and The Pony arriving at Downstream Casino at about the same time. Hick and I got there by noon, and went inside for a bit of wagering while we waited.

Check-in was not until 4:00, but I asked the desk clerk if we could possibly do it earlier, and she said 2:00. The boys all arrived by 12:45, so we had lunch at the grill inside the casino to kill some time. I had the Grilled Chicken Bacon sandwich, which was burned to a crisp that one time, and fries. The sandwich was cooked well this time, except it had a section of chicken like rubber. Even I couldn't eat that part! Plus, I gave the majority of my fries to Genius and Friend, who weren't really hungry, they said, and halved a quarter-pound hot dog. I think they were under a bit of a hangover. Hick also had the chicken sandwich, non-rubbery, with fries, and The Pony had a cheeseburger and fries, which he pronounced delicious.

Downstream doesn't have a free soda fountain, but this grill place gives free refills. In fact, the counter girl cautioned us not to set our cups down, or throw them away in their trash, as random people dig them out and ask for refills. I don't know how she thought we should dispose of them! However, I kept all three cups from Hick and The Pony and myself, for future refills!

Genius and I went to the hotel counter to check in, since I'd put his name on one of the rooms. I'd asked for one on a high floor, since that's what he prefers, but the gal said she didn't have any ready yet. That she'd give us a high room when we came back later. Genius wasn't having that. He wanted to be sure of a room. The gal asked if we wanted rooms together, and we both said, "NO!" Yet she gave us rooms right next to each other.

We had barely wheeled our suitcases in when Genius came knocking at our door, asking if it would offend me if he went back to the desk and asked for a different room. Nope! Not a bit. He got a higher room. On the 3rd floor instead of the 2nd!

From there, we headed out to visit 5 other casinos Saturday evening. Downstream itself was decorated for Christmas.

Behind the tree, where you can't see it, built into the wall, was a fireplace with a real fire. Nice and cozy. The way to the casino is to the right of this tree.

All lit up in its own way! We didn't spend too much time there Saturday night, but made up for it Sunday. Sorry to those random people I caught in my photos! They'll never know...

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Sometimes The Pony is More Mature Than Val

My 13-year-old self can't help it. Really. I know before I open my mouth that it's something I shouldn't speak out loud. But I do it anyway.

Returning from CasinoPalooza 3, I rode back home for 5 hours with The Pony in his little Nissan Rogue. It's a 2013 model, and was in great shape when we bought it. Low miles. No problems. When we visited in September, Hick had four new tires put on it. So we were a little surprised when The Pony texted, upon departure from OU Saturday morning, to meet us near Joplin, that he had to put air in his tires. Not that fact, because tires slowly lose air. But this:

"Had to air up a tire, will keep you posted on if it goes flat again."

"Okay. How low was it?"

Let me tell you, I was pretty incensed that we had spent good money to get The Pony a set of brand new tires AT WALMART, and now one was flat. I swear, he only drives it once a week, to Midwest City, for a lunch at Steak N Shake. That's about a 40 mile round trip. Sure, there could be road hazards like nails, but The Pony doesn't even have a parking permit for OU. He takes the shuttle from his apartment complex. So he NEVER drives. Maybe to the store on Fridays, but he alternates rides with his Bestie for that.

Of course, being The Pony, his idea of FLAT is somewhat different from that of ours, as experienced drivers.

"26ish. The others read 29ish or so. I think part of it is the cold."

"Okay. That's not bad. They should have 32, Dad says."

"Yeah. I'll check on them again after I drive for an hour or so, and get them all to 32 if they're not."

So...we didn't worry any more about the tires. T-Hoe needs 35 psi in his tires, and I've driven to town on 24 to get air.

Anyhoo...we had just passed Joplin, about 15 minutes into our drive back home on Monday, when The Pony noticed a crack in his windshield!

"Where did THAT come from? I swear it wasn't there when I left. This is the first I've seen of it."

"Well, your car sits on your parking lot most of the time. Then you get in on a cold morning like this, and as the car heats up or you run the defroster, any little chip can turn into a crack. Mine has done it before. Probably, by the time we get home, that crack will be all the way across. No big deal. We'll get the windshield replaced."

"I don't even want to hear Dad blaming me for it! I had no idea."

"Dad isn't going to blame you for it. It's not something you did! A rock hit it, and left a chip, I imagine. I can't see where it starts. It's down under the black part. It might have been a flaw in the original windshield, as they put it in."

The crack DID lengthen, but not all the way across. Hick called to see how far ahead of him we were. About 4 miles, since we left him after getting gas. I told him about the windshield, and he said we have zero deductible on glass breakage, so it won't cost a thing to replace the windshield.

As we pulled into the Rest Area some 110 miles later, to meet up momentarily with Hick, I said to The Pony...

"Now Dad can look at your...uhh...CRACK!"

I realized as that last word was coming out that I should qualify it with WINDSHIELD. But I couldn't pass up such a chance. My 13-year-old self would disown me.

That got The Pony giggling right along with me. We couldn't stop, even when Hick walked over to The Pony's door to see why we weren't getting out. He finally gave up and walked inside without us. When The Pony could talk again, he said...

"Mother. That is just WRONG."

When we came back out, I called to Hick, who was about to get into A-Cad...

"Hey! You forgot to look at The Pony's CRACK!"

I swear Hick almost cracked (oops!) a smile. Quite a feat for one born without a funny bone.

From the outside, we could clearly see the chip in the glass, from a rock. Hick has already called his repairwoman in his work town. She is ordering the windshield, and he'll get it put in after Christmas.

But...I'm putting the cart before the horse. The Rogue before The Pony. Telling you about the way BACK before I've even discussed CasinoPalooza 3. More on that coming up this week.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

He's a Picker, He's a Chooser, He's a Kitchen Chore Abuser

Seems like the rich tapestry of my life with Hick has so many threads that it should be hanging in a High Thread Count Rich Tapestry of Life Museum!

Last week, I made Hick his Thanksgiving ham. You know, the meal he missed when we spent Thanksgiving week visiting The Pony, gorging on two buffets per day. Hick was okay with missing a turkey, but he really wanted some ham. Oh, and Hick prefers his ham to be the already-sliced kind. Not even a spiral ham, because the bone gets in his way, even though it makes a good pot of beans later.

Anyhoo...I got a nice sliced ham and baked it. Which was really just warming it in the oven, (the extent of most of my cooking), according to Hick because it was already fully-cooked. Hick agreed, after much arm-twisting to get him to make a decision, that roasted potatoes/carrots/onions would be good with his sliced ham. I make them with bacon draped over them, so there's bacon, too! And some Sister Schubert's Rolls.

This gave us food for several days, and Hick declared that he could warm up his own meal on certain auction days, depending on what time he was leaving. Who was I to stand in the way of his independence?

Nearing the end of the bountiful Thanksgiving leftover season, I came upstairs to find one of my plastic former-Chinese-carryout containers beside the sink.

"You ate ALL THAT HAM?"

"I told you I was having ham and eggs, Val."

"There were 15 pieces of ham left! A full container! I was going to make beans tomorrow!"

"Oh. I didn't eat ALL the ham. There's still some left. I only had three pieces."

"Then why is the container empty beside the sink?"

"That's from the bacon."

"I forgot about the bacon. You ate ALL THE BACON? I was going to have some on my Chicken Bacon Ranch Pinwheels, but I forgot about it."

"There were only five pieces left. So I ate them. With my ham and eggs."

"Where's your skillet?"

"I washed it. And the spatula."

"You mean you washed the SKILLET, and the SPATULA, but left the bacon container on the counter next to the sink?"

"I didn't even think of it. Would you rather I left the skillet and the spatula?"

"No. But it would only make sense to do ALL your dishes, not just the ones you pick and choose."

"It's easy to wash the skillet. Just run water on it. And a little soap."

"Exactly! Did you use cold water? Like usual? Because the hot takes too long?"

"No. Hot."

"Then why couldn't you do the greasy bacon container, too?"

"I don't know. I just didn't think of it."

"Well, I've spent my whole LIFE with it being my DUTY to think of other people. That's why I get so fed up with your crap."

"It's nothing, Val. Why are you so mad over a little thing? It's nothing."

"You say. THIS IS WHY! You say it's nothing! Did you make ME any eggs and ham?"

"No. I didn't think about it."


"I figure you have a mouth. If you want some you can tell me. You knew I was making it."

"Yet I make your supper when I make mine, without you telling me you want it. OR I make your supper, even if I'm not going to be having any."

SERIOUSLY? He's proud of himself for washing his own skillet and spatula? He's like the little kid in Big Daddy, so proud that he wipes his own butt.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Another Themed Shed Builder in the Family

I'm pretty sure I mentioned a while back that HOS (Hick's Oldest Son) was thinking about building a shed for kids to hang out in while waiting for the bus. Other folks said they were fine with that, as long as the Bus Stop Shed looked reasonably presentable, and not like a hobo hovel. I was worried that our never-ending, inexhaustible stream of ne'er-do-wells might commandeer such a shed for nefarious purposes. I guess we'll cross that bridge if they come to our bridge and invade the Bus Stop Shed. Because HOS went ahead and built it.

I found it on my way to town a couple weeks ago. That's reflective yellow paint for the reckless drivers, I guess.

It's nothing flashy. Built of salvaged materials. HOS is not made of money to burn, able to throw it away on a Bus Stop Shed. Hick mumbled that the windows look like some he had over by the BARn. For 20 years.

"You always tell him that he can use anything he needs, then you complain if he does! You don't even know if those are your windows! Besides, at least they're not stacked under the BARn lean-to any more."

"Well, I DID tell him he can use stuff. Yeah."

Inside, it has a bench for sitting. No door, but who needs a door, anyway? It's got a roof, and three walls to block the wind.

You know it's a bus stop, because written beside the door is: BUS STOP. That's so you don't confuse it with a deer stand. Which it was in a former life, according to HOS's wife. I asked Lil HOSS (Hick's Oldest Son's Son) if he sits in it to wait for the bus, and he said, "No! I sit in the car!"

HOS said the shed is mainly for a family of four kids whose mom drops them off down by the mailboxes at 5:30 a.m. to wait for the bus. I'm guessing she has to get to work. I'm also guessing that the bus comes around 6:30 or 7:00. So without the Bus Stop Shed, waiting could be miserable now that winter has come. And on rainy days, too!

We'll see how long it takes for the ne'er-do-wells to discover this prime piece of real estate, and use it for a whack shack or a drug den or shoot out the windows.

If an A-Cad minding his own business rolling onto a parking lot in town isn't safe from rear-quarter-panel punchers, what chance does a rural bus stop shed have?

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Fortunes By Even Steven

After Hick forced me to eat at a Chinese buffet upon leaving the funeral home Saturday night, the waitress (I use the term loosely, because Dominatrix/Charwoman was a more suiting title) brought us the little black tray of two fortune cookies and barked, "Thank you!" with a scowl. Not a people-pleaser was that one.

I noticed that Hick had dropped the torn-off pink edge of his Sweet N Low packet (not to be confused with Skinny and Sweet, with a label shockingly similar to rat poison, from the movie 9 to 5) on the floor as we were leaving.

"Oops! You dropped part of your Sweet N Low wrapper."

Hick walked past it to join me on the way to the door.

"You didn't pick it up."

"Nah. She can get it when she sweeps. I ain't helpin' her."

True, that. Hick didn't help her with the tip, leaving $3, one of them being in quarters, on a $24 bill. Even though it was a buffet, and she cleared the plates off our table twice. Okay. The last one seemed more like an effort to make us get the Not-Heaven out. Especially when she barked, "You done with that?" at me the second I laid my silverware across the plate and pushed it away. Almost made we want to shout, "Ma'am yes ma'am!"

Anyhoo...after our dominatrix waitress tossed her cookies on our table, Hick had proffered me the tray with two fortune cookies, and I selected one that I thought was meant just for me.

You will step on the soil of many countries.

"Heh, heh! I must have gotten your fortune. No way is that mine! I hate to travel!"

Let the record show that Hick had just been discussing that very fact with my cousin at the funeral home less than an hour previous. About how I didn't even want to travel over to Bill-Paying Town to a Chinese buffet.

"Yeah. That's definitely not yours! Let's see what mine says. HA HA! I have yours!"

All things are difficult before they are easy.

"All things are difficult AFTER they're easy, too! ALL things are difficult for me!"

"Don't I know it! That's you to a T."

I think Even Steven was funnin' with us.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Val is a ConsciCENTious Grease Monkey

MONDAY, December 11th, I got a very late start to town. It was nearly 3:00 by the time I got away from my Chexcapades. I don't mind making Chex Mix to hand out at Christmas, but THE MIX is very needy. I'm tied down for 2.5 hours, without the ability to do much else, because of the stirring every 15 minutes. There are three big pans in a batch of Chex Mix, so by the time I've taken each out of the oven and stirred it and tossed the attempted escapees back into the mix...five minutes have elapsed. So I only have 10 left until the next stirring. About all I can do is toss in a load of laundry.

Anyhoo...Hick had been in and out, getting A-Cad an oil change, tire rotation, and cabin filter, and the Trailblazer new rotors and brakes. Alas, poor T-Hoe was the red-headed stepchild who got nothing. In fact, when I started him up for town, a chime went off, and an orange outline of a flat tire popped up, telling me to check its pressure.

The gauge thingies inside the tires are messed up, showing the front as back, and back as front. This warning said the left rear tire was the problem, but I knew it meant the left FRONT tire. I cycled through the button thingy beside the radio, and found that this tire had 24 pounds of pressure. Clockwise on around, the others had 27, 26, 27. Contrary to Hick's beliefs, the pressures were still the same after my 10-minute drive to town. A drive during which I got my incensed tirade ready to spring on Hick, for not taking care of my everyday vehicle, which is supposed to have 35 pounds of air in each tire.

By the time I reached the light for my left turn to The Gas Station Chicken Store, I had talked myself into putting air into the tires myself. Hick has a compressor over at the BARn, but seeing how unreliable he is since retirement, I decided to take the hose into my own hands.

Wouldn't you know it! When I pulled around the building to the FREE AIR, I found a man with his little pickup truck parked in front of it, getting air. I went on through the lot and out the back, heading for Country Mart to buy two bags of frozen white-meat grilled chicken strips, and garlic powder and garlic salt. I figured that air man would be gone by the time I went back. He was. But in his place was a black sports car (I don't know my cars), with the passenger out putting in air. I waited this time. Because I really needed air.

Once I'd done the around-the-world with that air hose to all of T-Hoe's tires, counting by one-thousand one, one-thousand two...I hopped back in and checked the gauge thingy. That was better, 36, 35, 34, and 35. I'm the Tire Whisperer.

I drove T-Hoe back over to my regular spot, lest some other poor driver with nearly asphyxiated tires need the hose, and gathered my phone, winning scratchers ($25 worth), and correct change for my 44 oz Diet Coke. I had just closed T-Hoe's door and turned around when I saw it:

There by the crack along the minefield of gas tank manholes was a DIME! Obviously left there just for ME to find!

It was a face-down 2016. I don't know if it was there the first time I stopped by, or left there while I was in Country Mart. In my coin-gathering quests, I generally equate pennies with Mom, and dimes with Dad. Who taught me how to put air in my tires, and change a fuse, check the oil, add oil (I had an oil-eating Chevy Vega), change an oil filter, change an air filter, add windshield wiper fluid, change windshield wipers, and add water to the radiator. I'm practically an auto mechanic, thanks to Dad!

WEDNESDAY, December 12th, just happened to be Genius's birthday. I'd already sent his card and "gift," and he said he had them, and was waiting until that evening after work to open them. Aww...he could have ripped them open as soon as they arrived. Such self-control for the former Li'l Genius, who left no dust bunny unturned in the quest for hidden gifts.

Anyhoo...coming out of The Gas Station Chicken Store with my 44 oz Diet Coke, I spied TWO pennies, which hadn't been there when I entered a few moments earlier.

I barely saw that first one, but between scanning the pavement for pennies, and taking care where I put my feet going down their homemade ramp out the door...I discerned that it was not an old piece of gum, but a penny! I set my magical elixir on the brick ledge of their windowsill, clutched my scratchers between my teeth, and snapped a picture.

While stepping forward to get a photo of this 1996, dirty, dirty face-down Abe Lincoln, I noticed the OTHER one. Good thing it was shiny!

This well-groomed Abe was actually older than his dirty doppelganger, being a 1993 version, and face-up to boot! (heh, heh, that BOOT part probably made you think of Thomas Jefferson, didn't it?)

Oh, my good luck was not over yet! Because my next stop, Orb K, provided me with the rare species of Heaven-sent coinage, the NICKEL!

See it there, peeping out from under the energy supplements?

A 2002, face-down nickel awaited my theft grasp. Oh, c'mon! It's not like I'm picking up a hundred-dollar bill from the floor of the bank lobby! It's a NICKEL, by cracky!

THURSDAY, December 13th, had me thinking this was Two-Fer Week for Future Pennyillionaires! I stopped by a NEW Casey's, which used to be an OLD Waterside Mart, to buy scratchers for Christmas gifts. I was a bit disappointed in the store's appearance, because Waterside Marts were always clean enough to eat off the floor. It had only been open ONE DAY since the buyout and conversion, but this NEW Casey's was not setting any cleanliness records. However...

I saw a 2017 face-up penny on the floor as the OLD Casey's clerk who had transferred here got my tickets out of the case.

The store had a sign taped to the door saying they couldn't take debit cards yet. The register acted up, and the OLD clerk commented on it. I said, "It can't be THAT bad! I just found TWO PENNIES!"

Because, much to my gleeful dismay, I had spied a SECOND penny over by the other register. Which was thankfully vacated by a man and his little girl while I was nabbing the FIRST penny.

Gotta admit, I had this also 2017, also face-up, penny mentally in my pocket the minute I saw it! I wasn't sure how I was going to harvest it, but Even Steven worked it out, so I could go after it between customers. I was rushed, though, and didn't get a good close-up. I think Abe will forgive me.

FRIDAY, December 14th, started with a trip to school to deliver the Chex Mix I still provide some former co-workers. This is the last year, though, with some key people retiring. Anyhoo...I first made my weekly stop by the cemetery for a 5-minute drive-thru chat with Mom and Dad, about upcoming CasinoPalooza 3, where we're meeting The Pony and Genius, and informing them that Sis's mother-in-law is now buried just up the hill.

Wouldn't you know it, Sis sent me a text while I was inside the school (where I stayed a while, with the secretary talking about how great my mom was, always bringing her little gifts every time she came to pick up the boys, or see me). Sis said that she and Ex-Mayor passed me and T-Hoe over by the cemetery, and did I know I had a running light out? YES! Good thing Sis and the ex-mayor are not COPS!

Stopping at The Gas Station Chicken store about an hour later, I spied a penny on the rug inside the door! Sadly, I couldn't get a picture inside, due to a LONG line. I picked it up on the way out, though.

It was a face-up 1998. That's the year The Pony was born. I put it in my shirt pocket, not even turning to see what the waiting line of people though of the display of my ample buttocks.

From there I popped in Country Mart, to get myself some scratchers from their machine. All losers! But the trip wasn't all bad, because just inside the door was a penny!

I waited until I was inside to take the picture, lest I keep the automatic doors open while standing in front of their eye.

This was a face-down 1959. Huh. That's the year SIS was born. Not to be telling any tales out of school, mind you.

It's been a good week for Val and her Future Pennyillionaire Fortune! That's 1 dime, 1 nickel, and 6 pennies!

For 2018: This was Penny # 127, 128.
For 2018: Dime  # 17.
For 2018: Nickel # 6.
For 2018: Quarter still at #1.

Since March 2017 (the beginning), this is Penny # 205, 206.
Since March 2017 (the beginning), this is Dime # 23.
Since March 2017 (the beginning), this is Nickel # 6.
Since March 2017 (the beginning), this is still Quarter #1.

Friday, December 14, 2018

I'm Pretty Sure Hick is STILL Trying to Kill Me: Operation Kidney Overload

For some time now, my subconscious has been trying to tell me that Hick is not all he seems. He's MORE than he seems! Perhaps even an evil mastermind, bent on getting rid of Val, leaving no clues. As far as I know, Hick doesn't have a spy umbrella tipped with a poison needle. But when I asked him to put an umbrella in the car for me, he DID pick the one with the fabric coming off two of the spokes, leaving their would-be impalers exposed.

This week, Hick did me a favor. Okay, so it was a REQUESTED favor, so maybe it's more of a command than a favor. And he did it two hours late. Which may have been some passive-aggressive point-making on his part. But still. Hick did me a favor.

It was Saturday, and we were going to the funeral home at 4:30, to pay our respects to the ex-mayor's mother, who passed away at the age of 97. I went to town for my magical elixir, but The Gas Station Chicken Store was FULL of people getting gas. I could only imagine how long the wait would be inside, in their narrow aisles. I went to Country Mart to pick up a couple items, then went back. Still busy. I figured I could get a Polar Pop at Orb K, and also some scratchers. So I forsook The Gas Station Chicken Store and its customer overload.

Bad decision, because Orb K had a sign taped across their two soda fountains, saying that I could have water or lemonade, but that everything else was not working. Bummer. Like Richard Gere as Zach Mayo in An Officer and a Gentleman, I had no place else to go! I went home and sent Hick a request to bring me a 44 oz Diet Coke on his way home.

I started a batch of Chex Mix, trying to get a leg up on the 5 batches that I give away for Christmas. It takes a half hour to put the ingredients together, then two hours of baking at 250 degrees, stirring every 15 minutes. Then it has to cool. Then be put in the containers. I was trying to get all my Chex gifts done before CasinoPalooza 3, so I wouldn't have to rush to do it when we get back.

Let the record show that I was also wrapping gifts before and during the Chexcapade. I have a lot of gifts that need wrapping, including those that Hick gets and assumes I will wrap for him. So I was pretty rushed. I'd need to finish a batch of Chex by 2:30, then eat some lunch, then get ready to go. I didn't even have time to check my innernets on HIPPY that morning, having to delay such business until lunch, after 2:30, at New Delly.

Anyhoo...Hick had gone to his Storage Unit Store, but the cold meant only a couple shops were open. So he closed up, and went Goodwilling. Then he went back to his Storage Unit Shed to meet people who were buying some of his stuff off Buy/Sell/Trade. He texted me that it would be a while before he got home with my soda. I replied that was okay, since I wouldn't have time for it until after 2:30 anyway. I told him that Orb K had a broken soda fountain, so he'd need to get my 44 oz Diet Coke at The Gas Station Chicken Store.

Here's where Hick's evil plot thickens.

This is what he brought me. From Casey's, which used to only have Pepsi products, but now has Coke, too! Who knew? Not this unobservant Val! You might notice that it's 52 OUNCES! Who in the Not-Heaven needs 52 OUNCES of soda? I am not a glutton. That is outrageous!

Anyhoo...Hick put my magical elixir in FRIG II while I was in the living room wrapping gifts. So I didn't see it until I was ready to have lunch. But I asked about it.

"Where'd you get my Diet Coke? The Gas Station Chicken Store? Did you see my text about Orb K?"

"I saw it. I got your soda at Casey's."

"CASEY'S??? They only have Pepsi!"

"No they don't."

"I've seen their soda fountains!"

"Val. I'm smart enough to KNOW not to buy Diet Coke!"

"They only have Pepsi! That's why I don't get my soda there!"

"Don't you know I'm smarter than to buy Diet Coke for you?"

"Well, what you bought WAS Diet Coke, that I asked for. So how am I supposed to know you're smart enough to get the right thing when TWICE NOW  you've said you didn't buy Diet Coke?"

"Oh, my word!"

When I got a look at the cup, I was pretty sure Hick was trying to kill me.

"FIFTY-TWO OUNCES? Why did you get so much? You know, right, that I won't be here sipping it all afternoon. I have less than two hours to drink it. And I can't drink MUCH, because I'll be at the funeral home, and I'll have to go to the bathroom!"

"They have a bathroom at the funeral home, Val."

"I can't drink all that now. I don't want that much on a regular day! And it's not in a foam cup. It will be hot."

"I was afraid the next smaller cup wasn't enough. So I got that one."

That's Hick's story, and he's stickin' to it.

The Casey's 52 oz Diet Coke does not lend itself to double-cupping.