Unbagging the Cats 1

Unbagging the Cats 1

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Rumors of My Absence Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

I'm still here. Just a bit late tonight. I got all caught up in submitting a contest entry. It's not the entry itself that bogs me down. It's the formatting. I'm a technology simpleton. At one point, I called on my son, Genius, to help me get rid of a header on the first page, and get my page numbers flowing. Alas, junior Einstein was no help. That's one for the record books. That boy never met a computer app that he couldn't wrestle into submission. Or fart in its face, give it a titty-twister, frog-punch it to tears, and make it lick a Big Red wrapper and stick it to its forehead. Until tonight. Word had him flummoxed. Lucky for me, I had seen the solution once, and finally figured it out. I think Anne Mini, of Author, Author provided that info. So kudos, Ms. Mini. I am indebted to your sidebar.

I feel like a bit of a heel. I have two new followers today, and all I had to offer was that old spider post from Monday. Shame on me. What's next, I trot out some stale crackers and moldy cheese? Throw a barbecue and ask them to pat out the hamburgers? Invite them to the movies and then ask what time they're picking me up? Next thing you know, I'll show up in a question for Backroads Miz Manners. Shame on me. My momma raised me better.

Most of the time, I post every day, at a reasonable hour. Sure, I could plan ahead, and set my posts to show up bright and early, sparkling with morning dew. But that would require planning ahead. Which is a bonus for Val where her job is concerned, but bogus when it comes to this little writing hobby.

I vow to make a more concerted effort to entertain. Not to get by. It's hard to have four boobs on a consistent basis. Though thankfully it is also rare to have a run-in with the Butcher of Seville.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Is There an Arachnologist in the House?

I hope there are no arachnophobes amongst my vast readership. Because if the thought of eight hairy legs and four pairs of eyes make you go all dizzy and short of breath while your heart tries to hammer its way out of your chest...you'd better not scroll down. THIS IS A WARNING! Big hairy spider below! Look away!

It's hard to tell the size in this extreme closeup, but a nail head is clearly visible. My furry little friend appears to be approximately 15 nail-heads long. Hey! I can measure in whatever units tickle my fancy. It's my blog. So if you want your arachnids measured in inches or centimeters, take your own pictures and post them on your own blog. A nail-head is an acceptable measure. It's no dumber than the length of a king's thumb knuckle. Maybe I'll start my own measurement system. I declare that this spider is one Pony-hand long. That's the distance from the tip of my thirteen-year-old son's middle finger to the base of his hand. A Pony-hand.

Hick found another one of these under the porch, out by the pool, a couple of years ago. Being Hick, he put it in a Ziploc bag and sent Genius in the house to wave it in my face. I don't know how he wangled that mission, because when I asked Genius to snap a photo for me yesterday, he shook his head like Jerry Seinfeld refusing a bite of pie. He says he dislikes spiders immensely. But he did give me his $950 camera and show me how to focus. So that's my handiwork that you are about to see below. WARNING! The spider pic is coming!

This creepy behemoth was perched on the wall near our back porch ceiling, just behind the kitchen door. The Pony spotted it when he was complaining that I need to spray the wasps who have returned to our porch like swallows to Capistrano. It appears to be a Dolomedes tenebrosus, one of the largest of the North American spiders. It is also called a fishing spider. Its cousins are known for eating bugs and small minnows from the water's surface, but tenebrosus is found farther from the water. They hunt their prey rather than capturing it in webs. Come to think of it, there was a tattered dead moth on the porch. A big moth. I assume this spider was a female, because they are bigger than the males. And I don't want to see a spider bigger than this.

WARNING! Here comes spidey!

She was gone an hour later. I am not looking forward to a reunion.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Unwritten Culture Rules of Sixteen-Year-Old Males

I am a regular schoolyard anthropologist. Those of you who are not in daily contact with sixteen-year-old males may not realize that they have an unwritten code of conduct. It is understood. Some things are okay, some things are forbidden. In no particular order, I present...

Unwritten Culture Rules of Sixteen-Year-Old Males

1. Two boys can not go out to eat. That's just wrong. It's like a date.
Well, of course. That's what immediately comes to my mind when I see two boys at McDonalds. Not "Somebody just got a driver's license," or "Boys sure can put away the food." Nope. Everybody surely is thinking, "Oh, look. Two boys on a date."

2. When you go to the movies, three guys sit side-by-side. Two guys leave a seat in between. So people don't think they're on a date.  Again with the dating. Maybe people are thinking, "Ooh! Three-way!" Or not. Don't mention that to sixteen-year-old boys. Then they will take up even more seats at the movies.

3. Calling each other on the phone is forbidden unless it's an emergency, like Algebra. Texting is okay. Because apparently, phone conversations are like dating.

4. Two guys never go to the bathroom together intentionally, unless it is during school lunch, and they are dippin' chew. Because anything else would be like dating.

5. Clothes remain on unless showing off a wound, or mooning.
For example, it's fine to drop your pants to show a paintball welt, or moon your teammates.

6. Trying on another guy's senior ring is not okay, even if you don't know what size to order. It's better to get the wrong size and then send it back to have it cut down or expanded than to put another dude's ring on your finger.

7. Sharing drinks is okay, but not food.
You can drink out of another guy's soda, but don't even think of offering him a bite of your food.

8. There's nothing wrong with playing Spin the Bottle at a school lunch table full of guys. First, you make a statement, like, "Most likely to live in a van down by the river," or "Most likely to marry a hot chick." Then spin the empty soda bottle and see where it lands.

9. It's all right for one guy to ask another guy to help pick out what to wear. Like, if a guy's mom is in the bathtub, and he's color-blind, and needs advice so he will look presentable.

10. Wearing each other's clothes is okay.
If you stay overnight, and have to go to school the next day for a trip to the state robotics championship, and need a clean shirt, you can borrow one.

11. Sleeping in the same bed is acceptable.
For example, in a motel on a trip to the state bowling tournament.

12. Bros before hoes.
But don't be phone-calling or sitting side-by-side at the movies or going out to eat.

13. Gingers have no soul.
Doesn't everybody know that?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

10 Ways to Survive Graduation

Every year, our high school faculty must don robes and parade down the center of the gym to sit behind the podium and watch the graduation ceremonies. We are none too thrilled with this duty. Not because we don't want to see the kids graduate, but because we don't like wearing the robes and participating in the spectacle.

We used to fear for our safety. Until three years ago, we had to march back through the rows of graduates to make our exit. In case you haven't been to a high school graduation in the last fifteen years, I have two words for you: Silly String. Sometimes, Silly String is a weapon. Most times, Silly String is but an effervescent ejaculation of good will bestowed upon an object of scholarly affection. In either case, Silly String can land you in the hospital with a fractured hip, or blow out your retina at close range. Silly String is not the teacher's friend.

Because Val is all about helping her fellow faculty, she presents this timely advice:

10 Ways to Survive High School Graduation

1. Don't Sweat the Small Stuff. You should not feel pressure to risk a head rush while bent over in the principal's office digging through the four boxes of graduation robes until you find the one with your name on it. Robes that have not been picked up three days before graduation will be hand-delivered by a student office worker. Teachers who remove their robes from the bag thirty minutes before the ceremony will enjoy the same status as those who hang their robes by the shower for two weeks to steam out wrinkles, or those who have their husband press it for them. Plan to arrive around 5:45 for the 7:00 ceremony. That way, you will have parking. If your colorful hood represents a university which you did not attend, don't worry. The audience will never know. Only you will know. And perhaps other educators who attended your college.Traitor.

2. Go to the Bathroom before Lining up in the Corridor. Nothing is worse than sitting by a faculty-mate who has neglected the call of nature. The moaning, the indecision, the escape plan, the debate of whether or not to disrupt the ceremony to use the facilities. Okay. The only worse thing is to be that waterlogged faculty member.

3. Get a Master's Degree. Did you know that graduation robes are different for faculty with B.S. or B.A. degrees and those with Master's Degrees? It's true. Every time a teacher gets a Master's Degree, a graduation robe gets its wings. Instead of three-quarter-length bell-shaped sleeves, the Master has a thin, baglike appendage on each sleeve. They are great for wiping brow sweat, flapping other faculty across the face, and stuffing with graduation ceremony contraband. Plus, you can lord it over the younger faculty who have not yet bilked the Professional Development coffers for tuition money for Master's classes, and who may have twenty-nine years to go before retirement.

4. Bring Sustenance. You don't know how long the ceremony will last. Stuff your sleeves with Life Savers, Mentos, fruity hard candy, cough drops, Sprees, Werthers, and Starbursts. Cake and brownies should be consumed in the staging room before lining up. Likewise, it would be considered unprofessional to pull out a sandwich. You're not George Costanza making love between bites of pastrami on rye with mustard.

5. Gossip away the Jitters while Waiting in Line. There's no pressure. All you have to do is walk in line at the precise time when the couple in front of you hits the half-court line. Nobody has ever fallen on the way in. Or passed out from the heat. Or run off the court in a panic attack. Or vomited in front of the entire audience. Even if you happen to mess up the whole graduation ceremony, being recorded by hundreds of parents and step-parents and grandparents for propriety, nobody is going to arrest you or shoot you or call you an idiot who can't even walk in a straight line at the exact instant that you are supposed to. 

6. Mouth the Words to the School Song. You can actually sing it if you know the words. And if you can carry a tune in a bucket. Otherwise, silently say apples and bananas over and over. It will look like you're singing, and the choir on stage behind you will do an admirable job of projecting the vocals. You'll know, because the speaker on a stand twelve inches behind your head will make it obvious. If you simply stand with your lips together, you may be perceived as a malcontent, jealous of the choir director who wrote both words and music to this facility-praising ditty.

7. Scan the Crowd for Rabble-Rousers. You never know which disenfranchised former students, parents, or faculty might be standing along the rail behind the bleachers. Pass the word down to the P.E. teacher on the end, the official Bouncer of Ceremonies. Forewarned is forearmed.

8. Bask in the Achievements of the Graduates. Seems like only yesterday, doesn't it, that you had them in fourth grade, or in special class, or in your club, or on your sports team. Remember them, the Einstein, the prankster, the gofer, the silent, the clown, the do-gooder, the average, the troubled. Here they are. They've all made it. Some may be the first person in the family to ever graduate from high school. Listen to the cheers as the diplomas are handed out. They made it.

9. Tear up a Little Bit. What a great group of kids. Look into their faces. The clown in the front row wiping away tears, whispering to his alphabetical seatmate, "I'm not crying. There's something in my eye." The kid who declared himself your favorite for the past four years while you denied it every day. The girl sitting next to the special needs student, chatting with her, explaining what to do, patiently reattaching her tassel. The ones who have overcome adversity to earn their credits off campus, to graduate with the class, when few thought they could succeed. Propose a silent, nonalcoholic toast to the Class of 2011.

10. Prepare for a Quick Getaway. Scan the seats of the graduates. Note which ones have a larger stockpile of Silly String. As soon as the band strikes up the recessional, aptly titled Recessional (quite the genius, James D. Ployhar), stand and bunch up the line with your fellow faculty. GO! Walk like there's no tomorrow. The school board members will partially shield you from the first rush of Silly Stringers as you make your exit up the side steps. Take off that hood and robe as you're trucking down the mezzanine toward the office, dodging well-wishers and groupies. Toss the rented togs into their respective boxes, sidle through the bottleneck of incoming, disrobing cronies, and hot-foot it out the back door. Because you've cleverly parked facing out, on the end of the row where you won't be at the mercy of somebody letting you in line, you can cruise out of the upper parking lot before the crowd knows you've left. You have an amazing 364 days before you have to endure this ordeal again.

There you have it. Val's tips on surviving graduation. Next year, an update will be required, due to the teacher on Val's left, who, halfway through the awarding of diplomas, pulled a bottle of water out of her sleeve and took a big swig.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Just Desserts, or the Smiting of the Biter

We have a beagle who does not play well with others. He has Little Man Syndrome. Bad. Toss some food out the back door and the minute the door is closed, you'll hear snarling. A pet kerfuffle, engineered by Tank, the beagle. He fights with the other dog. He fights with the cats. He fights with the chickens. And the last incident in which he was caught was a showdown with a goat. The sweetest of the goats, too. The long-haired, blue-eyed Nellie.

The Nellie Incident began when a loaf of stale white bread was tossed, slice by slice, into the front yard for the chickens and the goats. Tank thought otherwise. He charged off the porch and into the yard, making a beeline for the slice of bread that Nellie was wrapping her lips around. Tank rushed her, snarling. Nellie grabbed the bread, turned, and ran for her pen. Tank couldn't let it go. He jumped up and sank his teeth into Nellie's left side. And hung on like a snapping turtle awaiting thunder. Nellie trotted. Tank bobbed. His feet did not reach the ground. Nellie ran faster. Tank lost his grip on her hirsute flesh, and dropped off, completing two full revolutions like a rolling, beagle-colored log. He at least had the conscience to appear shamed when chastised. Then he pouted for a day.

This evening, the chickens were the lucky recipients of some Martha White muffins, baked by Genius two nights ago. Genius proclaimed that only the strawberry and blueberry are worthy of his appetite, and that chocolate chip and apple cinnamon should never be purchased again.

I stood at the porch rail, crumbling muffins and scattering them to the fowl, taking care to toss them far away from the two guineas, who are noisy bullies who serve no purpose other than to annoy me. Tank ran into the crumbfest, sniffling for snacks. The chickens pretty much ignored him, what with this generation lacking knowledge of his previous four murders.

It was slim pickin's for Tank, the muffins being crumbled thoroughly and widely spread. As I flung the final particles, the wind caught the paper plate, previously weighted with muffins, and blew it down to the yard. Right onto Tank's back. He jumped and cringed. Who would have thought that two such opposite actions could occur in tandem? Tank fled his foodish field of dreams. I consider that plate attack sweet, poetic justice.

 Tonight, Tank got his just desserts.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

When the Yard Chair Talks, People Listen

We spent the afternoon under a tornado watch, with rotation popping up here and there. I had cautioned my sixteen-year-old son, Genius, that if I shouted at him to go to the basement, he was to go. Immediately. He agreed absentmindedly, absorbed in Black Ops or some other murderous game on his XBox.

When we lost the satellite signal, I grew restless. No radar. No forewarning. The trees had been doing an intermittent swirly dance. A wall cloud formed out the front window, and I hollered at Genius to get to the basement. He came right out of his room and joined me at the top of the basement steps, just inside the front door of our house. He was jabbering that I was too cautious, and I was responding that I'd rather be safe than sorry. Seriously. It's not like I was sending him to a medieval dungeon to be stretched on the rack. Our basement has all the amenities of home. Big-screen TV, couch, chairs, pool table, bathroom, office, workshop, piano, Wii, electric fireplace, Christmas tree...

Genius was right behind me, doing that little thing where he communicates his superior knowledge to me by moving his hand like a puppet mouth, and saying meh, meh, meh in a sing-songy manner. Just then, we heard a clang and scraping and a thud. I thought Genius was going to elbow me out of the way going down those basement stairs.

We rounded up The Pony from his nest on the couch, and headed into Hick's safe room. He had it built special when we constructed our house. It is under the breakfast nook, which means it's shaped like half a stop sign. The walls and ceiling are concrete, with a solid metal door. Don't go thinking Hick was starting his own Fort Knox, or forming a panic room for his wife and two young children. Nope. The original purpose was to make a secure place for his gun collection. Now, the room is filled with Hick's treasures. Glass cases bought at auctions house a myriad of metal collector cars, like Big A Auto Parts truck banks, and glass-fronted shadow-boxes filled with pocket knives adorn the walls, with rows of special shotgun shells all lined up. Dangling pocket watches drape over shelves, like Salvador Dali afterthoughts. A couple of guns lie behind a cheap roll-top desk. Then there's a barber chair, a tiny violin in a case, Jane and Johnny West figures, and a big pair of silver shears.

Genius surveyed the situation.

Well. So much for staying away from glass.

Yeah. We'll be found with collector cars embedded in our intestines.

It looks like we're all set for the apocalypse.

I think that's what he's planning for.

I'm going to lock this door.

NO! Then the rescuers won't be able to get to us.

Meh, meh, meh.

Quit it! You could at least play the world's smallest violin for me. 

I think I'll do just that.

I don't hear it.

It's not making any sound.

Your horsehair is loose. It looks like it's just strung on a stick from the yard.

Knowing Dad, that's probably what he did. No. Here's the problem. It's not strung tight. It sags against the stick.

Look. It even has a chin rest.

(Genius tried to put the tiny violin under his goateed chin. The effect was much like a fat man in a little coat.)

Stop fiddling around.

Aren't YOU funny. I'm going upstairs to check on the weather.

Genius reported that the cloud was gone, winds were calm, and there was rain. I went upstairs to investigate. Genius and I stepped out onto the porch. A metal yard chair that had been sitting in front of his bedroom window had been flipped and blown twenty-five feet across the front porch, coming to rest under the living room window. Thus, that initial sound when we went underground.

When the yard chair talks, Genius listens.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Val Has Four Boobs

I rarely mention anything about my dreams. Somebody is sure to have a kickass dream dictionary to thumb through and psychoanalyze me. I used to have such a tome myself, and it was right on the mark. In fact, I've had two copies. I keep losing them. Which no doubt means that I didn't like the interpretation.

Last night, I dreamed that I had four boobs. Two big ones, and two small ones, detachable, with handles. And storage compartments in my closet. I woke up wondering what this was supposed to signify.

Maybe I'm a super-duper mother, chock full to the brim with nurturing and crap. A caretaker of all humanity, suckling mankind with the milk of human kindness through my quadruple mammaries. Nah! I don't think so. One thing Val has never been accused of is uber-love for her fellow man.

Perhaps it's just the opposite. I'm a terrible mother. Quick! Call 1-800-BAD-MOM. Gotcha! That's one digit short of a toll-free number. You can't lock up Val so easily for stowing away the tetra-teats and leaving her offspring without nourishment. For being a misanthrope. A hater of humanity, her heart a rocky landscape where even the smallest seed of love can find no purchase.

On the third hand...maybe I just really, really like boobs. To the extent that I need to stop shaving my legs, start wearing sensible shoes, and drape myself in flannel shirts. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Val does not mean to be politically incorrect toward the lesbiatti. They were her posse in college. It tends to happen when you live with P.E. majors. Those gal-lovin' gals knew how to throw a happenin' party, but they were not exactly hip to L-Word couture.

Most likely, a dream is just a dream. The second scene knitted by my dreamweaver involved me mentoring a new teacher, his assistant, and their lone charge: a straight-A student they kept in a bell-shaped glass classroom. While Val would be a great mentor for would-be educators practicing how to hold students captive, her many talents could be put to use elsewhere for the greater good.

For one moment in time, Val had four boobs.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Uninvited Guest

This is what I saw in my field this morning on the way to school. Not this very possum, but one that looked just like him. He was facing me, standing like some hulking behemoth in the field by the barn, acting like he owned the place.

He was creepy. Not because I've never seen a possum. I've seen plenty. The most frightening encounter was when I looked out the laundry room door one morning and saw a possum munching away at the dog dish. Right up on the porch he was, a mere two feet away, separated from me only by a hollow metal door.

No, this one was creepy because he was BIG. And he was not the normal possum color of silvery white with black-tipped fur. This one looked like our black-and-white cat. Only uglier. He was a regular piebald. A pinto. A painted possum not often seen around these parts. I've never seen one this color not-playing dead on the road.

Pictures proclaim him to be a Virginia Opossum. Seems like he's expanded his range right over here to Missouri. I don't even know what we call Missouri Opossums besides possums. Maybe they're all Virginia Opossums. But the ones in my neighborhood are not black-and-white.

But I did not like the look of this fellow. He was kind of like this:

And this:

I want to see a normal possum. Not one of these impostors. When you get right down to it, I'd rather not see a possum at all. If you're a possum-lover, here's a link for you. You're welcome. But don't expect me to join your ranks.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Oh, What Heights We'll Hit

My red, rolling office chair is the most comfortable piece of workplace furniture ever. Unless maybe you count a bed in a sleep study lab.

Over the past month, I have gradually grown disillusioned with Rolly. Had I inflated his comfort in my mind? Or was he aging, wearing out, becoming more decrepit with each passing day? He was hardly sittable any more. I groaned with great effort upon arising from his cushy confines. It shouldn't have to be this way.

Friday night, I consulted my thirteen-year-old son, The Pony, about my predicament.

"Is there a lever on Rolly? Do you think I can lift him up? He's just not comfortable any more. I feel like my knees are at my chin."

"I don't know. You never let me sit in him."

"Well...you have your own chair. Rolly is mine. Get down there and take a look."

"I can't tell. Something is there. But I don't know if you would call it a lever."

"Here. Help me turn him over. See that? That's a lever. Flip him back."

I pushed the lever forward. Rolly's seat shot up like a visual aid in an Enzyte commercial. The Pony and I looked at each other. "Whoo! That's what the lever does! Sit down so I can move it lower." We pushed Rolly to my limits. Or so I thought.

The next morning, my back hurt. Rolly's new altitude was my first thought. The Pony had gone to spend the day with his grandma, so I needed to perform the manipulations alone. Perhaps just a tad lower. I stood beside Rolly with my hand on his seat, the other hand fiddling with his undercarriage. I didn't want to sit down and have the chair clunk to the bottom when I adjusted the lever, like my chair at work. The lever wouldn't move.

Against my better judgment, I sat on Rolly. I groped for the lever. It was jammed. I tried to force it. "EEEEEEE!" That rascally Rolly nearly launched me into the stratosphere! Homer Hickam and the rocket boys could have taken a lesson from Rolly. Fortunately, I was in the middle of my office, not pulled up to the desk. I dangled my feet and tried to catch my breath. It was like the time the Ferris wheel stopped for repairs with me and my cousin in the top car. How silly of me to fear a Rolly collapse upon pressing the lever. I had expected some kind of express elevator to hell, like Private Hudson in Aliens. But Rolly didn't let me down. He was more explosive than an auto airbag. More explosive than freshman boys fifth hour after a double tray of chili dogs. More explosive than nitroglycerin in a 1960s movie.

Since I had already reached the pinnacle, I set about coaxing Rolly to a lower elevation. Who knew that Rolly was built to support a school of sumos? I had to jounce up and down while compressing that lever. Rolly eventually sank to a suitable depth.

I'm thinking about partnering with Rolly for a workout video.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Backroads Miz Manners Talks Parking Lot Rage

Time again for the highfalutin advice of Backroads Miz Manners. Please pardon Miz Manners for saying so, but judging from the dearth of etiquette inquiries in past posts, her readers appear to be: A) perfect, B) timid, C) apathetic, or D) nonexistent. In order to salvage a blog post, Miz Manners will proceed with a question that may or may not be authentic. No need to go calling Oprah. She only has three shows left. Oprah and Gayle are busy shopping for couch cushion support inserts to prepare/repair for the return of Tom Cruise.

Dear Miz Manners:

On a recent outing to Walmart, I was confronted with a huge, crazy, bald, meth-head freak who had parked his black Ford Excursion in the yellow-striped no-parking zone at the end of the row. I, too, would like to park in the yellow-striped no-parking zone, because it is closer to the door, and nobody will dent my shiny $35,000 SUV with the door of their rusty $200 1990 Toyota Tercel. But I don't park there, because, well, it's a NO-parking zone. Which part of no and parking does this dude not understand?  How can I make sure that he gets his just desserts?

About to Blow a Gasket

Dear Gasket-Blower,

Zeb knows the meaning of both no and parking. He does not care. He carefully cultivates his image in order to intimidate the average Joe. Zeb will park his Excursion anywhere Zeb darn well pleases. He knows that nobody will call him on it. The Walmart greeter is long in the tooth, and needs that minimum wage job to survive. Security sits in windowless rooms, watching people attempt to steal Chinese-made Walmart fall-apart goods. The beggars out front are consumed with accosting customers as they enter and exit, clamoring for money to send baseball players to tournaments, buy dance leotards for little girls, and provide transportation for various school clubs to fly to various destinations in order to escape backwoods Missouri.

Your best scenario in providing Zeb with dessert is to glare at him pointedly as you push your loaded cart around his vehicle.  When an elderly woman gives you the stinkeye because she can not drive up your two-way row, due to your SUV being in the middle of it to get around Zeb's Excursion, lift your hands off the wheel and motion towards Zeb. Zeb will glare at you in his side-mirror as you shimmy around his rear bumper. Don't let that concern you. Zeb is not leaving that no-parking spot until Granny comes out with the Sudafed he needs for his next batch.

If, by lucky coincidence, you end up smack-dab behind Zeb ten minutes later at a stoplight, after dropping your son off to a relative at the other end of the parking lot, resume the pointed glare. Zeb will be mesmerized. He will keep checking you out in his side-mirror as he tools along, trapped behind a hoopty blowing white smoke. For all Zeb knows, you are an undercover narc. Let him sweat it. He'll be wishing he hadn't shaved his head when all that sweat pours unobstructed down his bare pate and into the windows to his soul.

Follow Zeb unrelentingly until your paths diverge. Pretending to talk into your cell phone will make Zeb go a little faster, once that hoopty hangs a right. But not over the speed limit. That's a sign that Zeb is up to something. Nobody goes the speed limit unless they are afraid of being stopped. For piloting a rolling meth lab. 

When Zeb rounds the roundabout, veer off towards home. You mission has been accomplished.


Miz Manners welcomes your questions on proper backwoods social behavior. Won't you please toss her a bone? A etiquette adviser is a terrible thing to waste.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Do You Choose to Read the Signs?

Do you ever notice signs that seem to be pointing you in a specific direction? Not road signs, but life signs?

I have not taken writing seriously until the past year. In January, I entered two contests. There was no New Year's resolution, no blinding flash of inspiration. I figured I needed to get on the stick, as my high school classmates used to say. I started this blog, and went searching for others to add to my blogroll. In doing so, I stumbled upon several contests, and spiffed up an entry from my long-time, folksy, self-entertainment blog. The other entry was the first page of the humor memoir I had decided to write. My efforts were successful, which I've already blogged about.

Then life got in the way. I didn't have time for the writing or any more contest-entering. I retired on my laurels. Truth be told, I didn't push too hard to make time for my writing. Updating both my blogs every day was enough. But lately, I've grown restless.

Wednesday afternoon, as every afternoon, I read the online version of the local newspaper. There was a story about the Heartland Writers Guild Conference in Sikeston, Missouri, on June 3 and 4. Sikeston is a stone's throw from here, if you are a steroid-enhanced, world-class stone-thrower. It's two hours or less from home. In doing a little research, I saw that I'd already missed a deadline to submit something. Besides, that's the weekend Hick and the boys are going on a little vacation. I don't want to travel alone, even to hear talk about writing.

Thursday afternoon, I got to Googling for writing groups. Who knew that one had recently formed right in my own front yard? And was having a meeting Thursday night at 5:30 in the library six miles from my house! I didn't go. I wasn't prepared. But what a coincidence. They meet monthly. So maybe I can scrape up the confidence to attend the next one.

Thursday night, I saw that Writer's Digest had done away with the late fee for the May 20 late entry deadline. Today is May 20. I wish I had something suitable for submission. But my slothful ways have put the kibosh on that contest.

I am hereby making a May 20th resolution to polish some entries and have them at the ready. You never know when a contest opportunity might fall into your lap. Don't let it get away.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Sort of a Book Review

I have started reading a new book. Only one-and-a-half chapters in, I can unequivocally report that Chelsea Handler is a wanker. According to Webster, synonyms for wanker include dumb egg, big stiff, dummkopf, and dickhead. Which I must admit are much nicer than the synonyms for a$$h0le, which someone of perhaps less refined breeding than myself might call her.

There is the edge of insanity, and then there is the abyss. Or so said Andrew McCarthy to Demi Moore in St. Elmo's Fire, which came after my other favorite McCarthy moment of flicking his cigarette ash into the stir-fry as Judd Nelson and Ally Sheedy made out a short distance away.

I would like to think that Ms. Handler's cruel pranks are a symptom of success, and the need to constantly top herself in order to mine new material for books and her TV show. But evidence points to a pattern of such behavior far before fame befell her.

And it's funny as hell. Seriously.

I have participated in pranks devised by others, and I have engineered several of my own. But they are mild compared to those of the master, Handler. She would not deign to kidnap a wastebasket daily for 30 days from an anal-retentive English teacher, nor fill a dorm elevator with the ninth floor's lobby furniture, nor play a graphic moment from a pr0n movie to a spinster counselor under the guise of flipping channels, nor remove furniture and fill an entire room with crumpled newspapers, nor scan a letterhead from Dish Network and make a grown man cry over the purported cancellation of his pay-per-view wrestling main event.

While reading Lies Chelsea Handler Told Me, I am torn between two emotions: shock and disbelief. Shock that a person could actually foist such pranks on other human beings, and disbelief that she has lived to prank again. I can't wait to get to the next chapter.

Being an a$$h0le pays way better than teaching.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

When Time Stands Still

I am slowly going crazy. Tonight, my internet speed is the s l o w e s t speed ever imagined. A narcoleptic snail could make a trip from Milan to Minsk in the time it takes a page to load. In fact, I could pen an entire screenplay for "Go Snail, Go Snail: A young mollusk's strange, erotic journey from Milan to Minsk" before my comments page opens.

In the time left over, I could take a gallon jug of molasses from my refrigerator and pour it into four quarts, then read The Stand (the 1153 page unabridged edition), and trek outside to fill my backyard pool with a garden hose.

The current speed limit on my information superhighway is slower than an elementary-school drop-off zone.

A young rooster and hen could mature, engage in courtship, acquire a real estate agent, rehab an old coop, flog themselves silly, hatch their very own Egghead, Jr., and send him off to poultry college before I can view a recently clicked link.

The line at the motor vehicle registration office moves faster than my internet, even counting that one day when all clerks stopped working to pay for their watermelons, delivered by a meth-bearded, overalled dude in a pick-up truck, and politely asked the patrons if they would like to purchase any for themselves.

Oh, how I long for the salad days of dial-up.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Auction King Midas

Hick just entered my basement lair in stealth mode. Normally, I can hear his work boots clomping down the steps. Tonight, he tricked me. He tromped to his safe room, a steel-doored, concrete-walled, basement nook that supports the upstairs kitchen nook, and spent a half-hour King Midasizing. That means he pulled his rolly chair up to his particle-board roll-top desk and dipped his arms into buckets of auction jewelry. Arms that were blackened and gasoline-smelling due to this evening's battle with a tractor belt.

Just when I thought it was safe to concentrate on ruminating on a most scathingly brilliant post to please my handful of faithful readers...I was scared out of my skin by the booming voice of Hick. He was standing right behind me. He's like The Sidler, that dude in Elaine's office who appeared out of nowhere, prompting her to give him a box of Tic Tacs so she could hear him coming. You might not remember that side story, since elsewhere in the episode, Kramer was busy hosting his own apartment Merv Griffin Show with scavenged furniture, Jerry was trying to knock out his girlfriend with a box of wine so he could play with her retro toys, and George was paying for surgery and rehab for a squirrel he ran over.

Hick blathered that he couldn't believe his good fortune. He held out two fists and wrists full of watches. Ladies tarnished fancy watches, men's scratched-up dress watches, and journeyman watches for both sexes. "I paid three dollars for all these watches at the auction, and five of them run!"

Hick's glass is always three-quarters full.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Object of My Taboo Love

Always one to join wholeheartedly in any improper shenanigans, I dropped in to see what Tammy had up her sleeve in her weekly Improper Poll. Turns out it was a lovely bejeweled watch, apparently one of many in her Tacky Watch Harem. Tammy posed the question: 

"Do you have an object you love and just can’t explain why?"

Yes. As a matter of fact, I do. Nothing as good as Tammy's hot little wrist-hugger. Because I'm a big ol' nerd. Office supplies are my passion. Specifically, I adore my maroon Swingline business stapler, model #74728. I don't watch The Office, but I hear there's some kind of special connection there with a RED Swingline. Mine is NOT red. It's maroon. And don't you forget it.

My sweet, sweet Swingline uses only the best high performance staples. From the cool, smooth tip of his contoured metal cap, to the soft cushion of his padded rubber bottom, my made-in-China cohort gets me through the day. He resides in the top right drawer of my wooden classroom desk, out of sight of the prying eyes and sticky fingers of my students.

Swinger, as I think of him, is quite the attraction in an otherwise unremarkable institutional setting. The kids are always asking about him, though not by name. That's just between me and Swinger. "Do you have a stapler? Can I use your stapler? Where's your stapler? Don't you have a stapler?" I protect Swinger from their amateur advances. Only I take Swinger out and let him bind their papers together. Like a well-trained service dog, Swinger responds only to MY commands. That's how he's survived so long. We've been together for ten years now. And he's as spry as the day we met.

About a year into our relationship, Swinger was swiped by persons unknown. And non grata. I left him to enjoy the summer in the top right drawer, his vacation destination of choice. When I returned in August, Swinger was missing. Six long days I pined for him. And on the seventh, Swinger reappeared. He sat in the top right drawer as if he'd never left. I was so happy to see him, I trimmed a tiny nameplate out of index card, and taped it to his silver belly, inside his maroon outer skin, up under his staple trough. A kind of camp nametag, if you will. For Swinger's next vacation without me.

Some stealthy snooping revealed a large pile of athletic handbooks, freshly stapled, piled in the teacher workroom. The workroom just a boy's room, janitor closet, and girl's room away from my classroom. I knew Swinger's kidnapper. And maybe, just maybe, I was less than polite when he wheeled in my missing TV/VCR cart.

Every day is a battle. A minor skirmish in the ten-year campaign to keep Swinger sequestered from those who would harm him. He's mine. All mine.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

My Faux Family Reunion

Sometimes I waste time reading blogs, sometimes I waste time sitting in front of reality television, sometimes I waste time staring into space with my mouth hanging open, and sometimes I waste time by creating alternate worlds to suit my needs.

In one such world, I am the backwoods hillbilly cousin of Jen Lancaster and Celia Rivenbark and Paul Feig and Wade Rouse. I see Cousin Paul as kind of a city hillbilly, what with his home town having four times the population of mine. But Cousin Wade had to pull himself up by his Ozarks bootstraps to escape Missouri and his backwoodsiness. Which he did by ending up in the backwoods of Michigan. Where Cousin Paul grew up.

Just imagine our family reunions. In Missouri, of course, because my cousins are world travelers, but I am not. I would take charge of booking the park pavilion for our potluck barbecue picnic. It would be the second best pavilion, because that girl behaving badly, Chelsea Handler, booked the best one. That's how she rolls. Because four books and two TV shows aren't enough. She's always itching to be the fly in the ointment of anybody who needs ointment...or who is simply trying to enjoy a faux family reunion.

There we'd sit, Cousin Jen and Cousin Celia imbibing some tasty cocktails and dishing on the sartorial choices of unrelated hillbillies in the park, while pointedly ignoring Chelsea's unsuccessful attention-getting antics. Of course, the cocktails would have to contain alcohol other than vodka, because Ms. Chelsea sent her minions ahead to buy up all the vodka in the county, and is, in fact, perched upon a throne made from cases of vodka.

Cousin Wade would be nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rockers at being back in Missouri, having worked so hard to put half a country between it and his current abode. At least he can use the trip to mine material for his next book. And I know wild raccoons couldn't keep him away from visiting me, his hillbilly Cousin Val.

I would spend some quality time with Cousin Paul, trying to persuade him to go back to memoir-writing, to chuck the whole directing/producing/acting thing. Who needs money when your words can make people laugh?

This reunion is running longer than expected. I blame the significant others who are fiddling about with the barbecue. It's enough to make me wave a white flag and ask Chelsea for some vodka. Maybe she can spare one of those little airline bottles. I'm certain there will be some type of humiliation (mine) involved for her trouble.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Time, the Essence Of

I don't get it. Blogger was down for a day. People were frantic. My post disappeared! I can't update! My comments are lost!

To steal and manipulate the tagline from Aliens: On the weekend, nobody can see you blog.

What was such a big deal on a Wednesday/Thursday is par for the course on Saturday/Sunday. The posts will appear. You can update at will. Comments stay put. But nobody cares. The weekend is a vast blogging wasteland.

Do people have actual lives to live on the weekends? Do they use work time to blog, thus no updates are forthcoming because they are off the clock? Or do they see blogging as a kind of work, with a well-earned weekend holiday?

I have more time available on the weekend. It's when I can catch up. If the great blogpocalypse had occurred on a Saturday afternoon, few people would have noticed.

Timing is everything.

Friday, May 13, 2011

High on a Deere Sat a Lonely Goatherd

Hick fancies himself a gentleman farmer. Two years ago, he bought his first goat at an auction. That set him off. One goat was not enough. Nobody can have just one goat. They're herd animals, you know. Everyone in the world knew, except Hick. He learned about it on the internet at work. In a job that has nothing to do with goats.

One goat led to another, until Hick had hoarded eleven of the little caprine cuties. I declared a moratorium on goats. Which means the herd has shrunk to six. But one is pregnant, possibly with twins. The goat gestation period is five months. It is with great anticipation that my 13-year-old son, The Pony, inspects the herd when we arrive home each evening.

Today we observed Lonely Goatherd Hick parked out by the driveway on his John Deere Gator. He was supervising the grazing of his furry children. He used to turn them loose, but two rosebushes, one lilac, and a 2008 Arbor Day free 4th grade red maple later, I pointed out the error in Hick's judgment. Goats are not good candidates for the honor system.

Hick's argument for acquiring so many goats was their grass-eating capabilities. He would not have to mow so much of our spacious front yard (field), which would save on gas and on his valuable time. Too bad he did not interview his goats before purchase. They do not so much enjoy grass as they enjoy rose thorns, underbrush, dead leaves, and tree bark. They are like four-legged locusts for any plant product other than grass.

Now Hick uses gas for the Gator to herd his goats to acceptable munching areas. He spends at least an hour a day watching them chew up the woods. The grass is as high as an elephant's eye. The goats don't go into it. If they eat any grass at all, it's from the trimmed sections along the driveway where Hick has mowed.

In the meantime, gas consumption has increased, and leisure time for Hick has decreased. He hasn't noticed yet.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Bad Hair Random Character Association Test

Ack! This haircut is driving me crazy! It's foremost on my mind. I repeat that thought over and over. My haircut is like the pretzels from the Woody Allen movie that made Kramer thirsty. I can't help myself:

This haircut is driving me crazy!
This haircut is driving me crazy!
This haircut is driving me crazy!
This haircut is driving me crazy!

All work and no play makes Val a poor imitator of Kramer and Jack Torrance.

My sixteen-year-old son, Genius, stopped by Great Clips for a haircut on Monday. By some mysterious alignment of the universe, he drew Zigaro, the Butcher of Seville. It was as if he'd flipped four coins and they all came up tails. As Teddy, Chris, Gordie, and Vern would say, "That's a goocher!"

I knew it the minute I saw him walk in the door. "Did you get the blond girl at the first station behind the mirror?"

"Yeah. How'd you know?"

"Oh, never mind how I know."

"It's bad, isn't it?"

"Pretty bad."

"I KNEW it! I thought it looked bad in the back when she held that mirror behind my head."

"She gave you a bald spot. And the front looks like Eddie Munster."

"I don't know who that is, but I hate the front. It's all pointy. I want you to cut it off later."

"She gave you a widow's peak."

"You have one, too."

"Don't I know it! I told her to cut it even with the eyebrows. But it goes up and down like the stripe on Charlie Brown's shirt."

"I'm never letting her cut my hair again!"

"You're preachin' to the choir, sonny. You're preachin' to the choir."

Every day my hairstyle looks worse. No region of my noggin appears presentable. Stalks and chunks and wads and wisps stick out. It's like a head-sized jawbreaker fell out of your mouth rolled across the cat's bed.

I'm going to have to find the time to take action. In the meantime, I am studiously avoiding the Hall of Mirrors. It's true. No tour of the Palace of Versailles is on the calendar for me. No house of mirrors, either. I can't look myself in the eye.

Disclaimer: this is not a real test. Your permanent record will not be affected if you don't know all the references.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Butcher of Seville

Pardon me if I seem preoccupied with hair. I blame the fact that on Sunday, I received the worst haircut in the history of womankind. I don't mean to aggrandize my misfortune. I would much rather understate it. If only that were possible. How I long for my reliable lady-mullet, my nondescript hairstyle that can be forked at 8:10 a.m. for lack of a comb, and look stunningly generic for the bell at 8:15.

Now my hair looks akin to the fur of dead, stuffed Sorrow in The Hotel New Hampshire. Nothing I try imparts a semblance of normalcy. It's even worse than the time I trimmed my bangs, and the students asked me if I cut my hair. And further inquired, "Did you use a mirror? Did you turn on the light?" At least my auto-trim was even. The Butcher of Seville managed to make my bangs all zig-zaggy on one side. I shall hereafter refer to her as Zigaro.

Of course I should have known better than to trust my head to Great Clips. I used to have a regular hairstylist on Main Street, right next to Subway, and across from the Senior Nutrition Center. She moved up the street a block after a disagreement with her landlord, into an old jewelry store next to a comic shop. She must have grown tired of leaning on people for a living, because now she runs her own successful catering business, and I must resort to Not-So-Great Clips.

The chopper I prefer looks and acts like Janice Dickinson. But she was not available. Instead, there was a poodle-haired short gal, and Zigaro. They were in the midst of a Public Servant Standoff. I recognized their tactics right away, having spent five years working at the unemployment office. One person thinks she's doing more than her share of the work, so she slows down. The other is naturally slow, but gets slower when the discrepancy is lessened by her competition.

Poodle told us that the wait would be forty-five minutes. I snorted. "Well. I'm meeting someone in an hour, and don't have anywhere to go, so I'll wait." Poodle did not look happy. I thought she was bluffing. There were three people ahead of us. All middle-aged men. How long could it take to cut a man's hair? Thirteen minutes, precisely. But Zigaro got rid of a customer, so they each called one back at the same time. That left only one ahead of us.

Poodle called him after her first thirteen-minute buzz job. Zigaro lingered over her customer. She was behind those crazy mirrors, but I heard her ask him if he wanted the back cut straight across. He agreed. Little did I know the other choice was zig-zag. Wouldn't you know it, Zigaro came for a new victim after twenty-six minutes. My son, The Pony, a little chicken, made me go first.

Zigaro asked for my input. "An inch-and-a-half off the back, and make the bangs even with the eyebrows." Simple enough. Zigaro sprayed me down and started snipping. Then stopped. To go to the edge of her mirror and take down her two receipts and hide them in a drawer. She then told me to put my head down, and started on the back.

"So you don't have any layers?"
"Um. Yes. I DO."
"Oh. I didn't see them. There they are. Do you always part it on this side?"
"Yes. Always."

Zigaro snipped slowly. She tried making conversation. When she found out I was a science teacher, she asked me why lightning wasn't straight. I suppose she expected it to shine like a flashlight. Zigaro was not impressed with my explanation of static electrical charges and path of least resistance. She acted like she didn't believe me. "Huh. Some science teacher." Normally, I would take offense. But I don't argue with a person who is standing behind me with scissors, whose reflection looks like Brittany on Glee. I tried to tell myself that she meant it like Charlotte the spider meant some pig. But that would have meant she was calling me a pig, so I just let it rankle me. I wanted to say, "I don't come to your work and knock the..." but that was Kathy Griffin in Times Square with Anderson Cooper on New Year's Eve, and I can't steal Kathy's material.

After pretending to layer my hair, and looking like she trimmed the bangs evenly, Zigaro swooped a big hunk of hair over my part, just because, and told me that she only took an inch off the back, and could take off more if it wasn't enough. I had already been in the chair thirty minutes, and missed two phone calls while this brazen butcher hacked my tresses. I knew when to say when. Zigaro did not even give me the courtesy of a blow-dry. I was not too concerned. At least I made it out with my eyebrows intact.

Now I'm going to have to find someone to repair that Great Clip. The back won't comb under. It's long and shaggy. There are no layers. My bangs rise up over one eyebrow and then droop like a fancy kind of curtain at the side of my head. How I yearn for a good old-fashioned Moe of Three Stooges fame head-of-hair.

This cut is so bad that my students have not commented once. It's the pity silence. Ignoring the elephant (or pig) in the room.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Hair of the Blog

In a police lineup, I might not be able to pick out the perp. But I guarantee I could pick out the teacher, IF teachers went around stepping into police lineups just for the fun of it, because heaven knows they have all that spare time on their hands, especially during the summer, when they don't do anything except sleep until time to get up to watch The View, and still get paid for it.

Where was I? Oh, picking teachers out of a lineup. That's possible because of their hairstyles. A more poorly-coiffed subset of the human population does not exist. Aging Barbies in a box in the attic or garage, maybe. But teachers have the market cornered on living, breathing examples of terrible tresses. That's because we just don't care. The do would quickly become disheveled anyway, what with all the jumping through hoops that we do each day.

Male teachers favor the shaved head, or the buzz cut, or that fringe around a gleaming dome. Rare is the comb-over. Too high-maintenance. It also seems that the Gabe Kotter has fallen by the wayside.

The women like to live in the past. What worked in the sixties and seventies will surely work today, even though the head under the hair is too young to have seen such hairstyles in television and movies. A frazzled Up the Down Staircase Sandy Dennis look is not uncommon. Or a Karen Valentine, Miss Johnson from Room 222, anybody? The Jane Fonda or Carol Brady shag kind of morphed into the mullet. The eighties gave us the Facts of Life Edna Garrett look for the more mature set. The nineties brought The Rachel, which is looked upon as very modern, that new hairstyle, in the halls of academia.

This is not meant to disparage those of my bloggy friends who teach the light fantastic. There is a sliding scale of style, and I'm sure you are at the very tip-top of it. I, myself, have slipped right off the bottom. 

I really did have a point when I started. I'm thinking it was about the really bad haircut that was inflicted upon me yesterday. Not that anyone at school would notice.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Thanks, But No Thanks

It's Mother's Day. I am SO happy that my kids did not get me this:

 Or this:

 Or this:


Sure, I had a pair of toe-socks back in the day. But I draw the line at toe-shoes. And what's with the name, anyway? FiveFINGERS? Was the name FiveTOES already taken? Don't the toe holes just give you more contact area to form blisters?

Goodbye, being taken seriously. Hello, plantar fasciitis! It looks like the next big trend. For now.

I didn't even LIKE my toe-socks.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Small Town Celebrity

I am a small town celebrity. My superstar status is not related to a particular talent or event. My notoriety does not stem from any abominable deed. Yet I am recognized county-wide as a local bigwig.

My claim to fame is my career of educating the citizens of tomorrow. Think about it. If a teacher lands a job at the tender age of twenty-two, and forges ahead until retirement at fifty-two, that teacher has touched the lives of approximately 3600-5400 students. It depends on the size of the school district. The low number assumes a class size of twenty students per class period, and the high number represents thirty students per class period. Either way you look at it, that's the population of a town around these parts.

It's a bit disconcerting to hear your name called out on a parking lot. Then comes the guilt-inducing, "Don't you remember me?" Sure, the face looks familiar. It's the list of 5400 possible names to go with it that presents the problem. The accosters are unfailingly, overwhelmingly, polite. They give the name, and it all comes back. Like yesterday.

Even so, I can't help but feel remorse for not shouting out the right name from the get-go. And I'm still over a thousand faces away from retirement.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Curious Incident of the Rabbel-Squirrit

Driving 20 mph down a tree-lined, residential street this afternoon, I spied a curious sight.

A critter ran across the road into a yard. I am no stranger to critters. I live in the country, by cracky! I've been raised amongst the varmints. I've sunk my teeth into plenty of rabbits and squirrels and quail. I know quail. I've sold original pencil drawings of quail. This, my friends, was no quail.

My mind told me it was no rabbit or squirrel, either. It was that gray-white mottled fur common to both rabbits and squirrels. It did not hop, nor did it dart in a twitchy, stop-and-start manner. It sort of bounded in a straight line across a yard to a tree. Which it made no attempt to scale. Or to run around and play peek-a-boo. It sat on all fours, not on its haunches. Now here's the weird part: it had neither a bushy tail nor long ears.

This critter was either a rabbit with no ears, or a squirrel with no tail. It was the PAT of the animal world. You remember Pat. The ambiguous SNL character who did not carry money in a purse or wallet, but in a sports sack. Who chose not to watch the Giants/Forty-Niners game or Murphy Brown, but instead rented the movie Tootsie. Who had a significant other named Chris. I am afraid to see the significant other of this creepy yard critter. It might have a bushy tail and long ears.

My scientific background points me in the direction of a squirrel with no tail. Because it's easier to get a tail lopped off by accident than to lose both ears.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Backroads Miz Manners is Reluctant to Stir the Pot

I am faced with a delicate dilemma.

When, in the course of lunchtime events, it becomes necessary for some people to dissolve culinary bands which have connected them with another...a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

How do you tell an adult that he is chewing with his mouth open? Which, even in Missouri, is frowned upon in polite society. Not just chewing with his mouth open, but rolling the food around and around his tongue like a human cow with a hamburger cud. Making noises like a bulldog trying to lick peanut butter off the roof of his mouth. All the while, the half-masticated food protrudes/recedes, dancing a delicate ballet that mesmerizes the captive audience. They cannot bear to look, yet can't look away, lest a second of inattention enable the expanding blob of foodstuff to succumb to gravity, in a dramatic, slow-motion swan dive onto the white formica.

My dining companions pretend that this chomping falls within the norm of mealtime etiquette. Would they not tell a man his fly was open? Inform a lady that a booger dangles from her nostril. Notify a hirsute fellow when crumbs collect in his beard? Apprise Julia Sugarbaker when she has a big ol' bird perched on her head? I find this non-notification to be cruel and unusual.

My sixteen-year-old son, Genius, has had the experience of repasting with the oblivious offender. He and his cronies cringed in horror, but did nothing to resolve the issue. It's a class concern. Students do not correct their superiors. Genius was hoping that I would do the dirty deed.

"You mean you guys don't tell him? How can you sit there every day and watch that? It's sickening. We all sat at a different table on our trip, and left him and the other sponsor at a table for two, like a date. If one of us at our school lunch table did that, we would not let him get away with it. We would make fun of him every day until he stopped."

I can't do it. I cannot correct another adult's table manners. It's not like we could put a bottle of Scope in his mailbox for bad breath. Perhaps we could model correct behavior. All of us take a bite at the same time, chew with our lips clenched together, moaning "mmmm" like the grub is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

I'm open to suggestions.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Covert Cat-Bombings Continue

Every evening when I pull into the garage, after an extended shift toiling away in the kid mines, I am greeted by the same occurrence. Cat bombs.

You'd think that I would have developed a thick skin, a tough outer shell, an unflinching, stoic, demeanor in response to this daily auditory assault. I have not. One minute, I'm chatting with The Pony, who insists on riding in the passenger seat behind me, even though the shotgun seat is empty. Like he has a personal chauffeur. Chatting insouciantly, chortling, perhaps, at The Pony's misadventures, when THUD! A cat thumps onto the roof of my Tahoe from the Machu Picchu-like heights of the garage rafters. My nerves, shredded from a long day of inflicting my will upon recalcitrant adolescents, jangle and jitter in a final hurrah. I flinch.

They appear to own the place, these cats. Two were hand-chosen as pets, before they were even old enough to sever the apron strings. The other three were gifts. Gifts of pet-abandoners who haunt rural roads, inflicting sorrow and guilt upon backwoods denizens who feel obliged to take in the wretched refuse of your teeming kennels. Or who at least feel enough compassion to assure their crying children that yes, the kitties can come home with us so they won't starve to death or be eaten by wild animals.

What they don't explain is that the kitties must be wormed, and have shots, and undergo special operations so they won't make more kitties. And five years later, the kitties will have taken over the grounds, scale the screens of the living room window in attempts to reach the summit of Mount Cedar Home, dash into the house if they see a sliver of an opening, caterwaul at 3:00 a.m. right outside the bedroom french doors, eat like they are carb-loading for a marathon 24/7, and terrorize the actual pet cats until they are fuzzy balls of nerves who appear to suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Numerous requests to cease the cat-bombing have gone unanswered. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Little Science Humor

Today my classes read and discussed Science World magazine. One of the articles was about William Trubridge, who set a world record for diving to a depth of over 300 feet on one breath.

We'll forgive the young lass who inquired as to whether Mr. Trubridge took his breath before he dove under, or at the bottom of the 300-foot dive. Because even though most people understand that you must take a breath, which is air, before you go underwater, as it is hard to survive a lungful of the liquid dihydrogen monoxide, the article did not specify precisely where Mr. Trubridge inhaled. So it was an honest question, not meant to sidetrack those of us wise in the ways of water and the respiratory system.

Talk turned to the nature of the record-setting dive. How Mr. Trubridge had to get back to the surface to inhale, so he had to budget his time carefully, or be faced with a frantic rush from the hydrosphere back to the atmosphere. Lass Two announced authoritatively,

"Yeah. He has to be careful, because if divers come up too fast, they get the runs."

Let the record show that several classmates enlightened her on the difference between the runs and the bends.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

May Day Momisms

May 1st. It's the day that my mother used to mark the beginning of barefoot season. It didn't matter if the temperature rose to eighty degrees on April 30. Shoes had to be worn until May 1st.

Among the other momisms:

*Always wash your feet before bed. (I'm perpetuating the hillbilly stereotype for all of rural Missouri, it seems.)

*When you take a bath, it is NOT acceptable to start at the feet and work your way up for a change. Well, you don't want to know who came up with this brilliant idea, but you can see how bragging about the new bathtime routine backfired.

*The word fart will never be mentioned in this house (unspoken rule). If one smelt it and wished to inquire as to who dealt it, the proper way to address the situation was: "Does somebody have to go to the bathroom." Thank goodness she had two girls and no boys, because I can imagine my imaginary brother piping up, 'No, I only had to FART!'

*Don't slam the mustard bottle down on the table. Enacted after my sister, who doesn't even eat mustard, shot a bright yellow geyser onto the ceiling of the kitchen.

*Eat everything on your plate before you get up from the table. Guess what? If you don't like the canned peas when they're served to you at 5:00 p.m., you really won't like cold canned peas in the dark at 9:00 p.m.

I realize I've left out the clean underwear in case of an accident, and what if your face froze like that, and if all of your friends jumped off a bridge would you jump off, too. I have time constraints, you know.