Unbagging the Cats 1

Unbagging the Cats 1

Monday, July 9, 2012

It's Rodney. Mr. Dangerfield if You're Nasty.

I am the Rodney Dangerfield of my post office. Not because I'm touring summer resorts in the Catskills with my standup act. Not because I bought a building at the university with money earned from my Thornton Melon's Tall and Fat clothing chain, just so my movie son could be on the diving team. No, sillies. Because I don't get no respect!

I'll illustrate this point in a moment. You don't think I'm cutting directly to the chase, do you? Have you forgotten where you are? This is Val's place. Where no story is ever told in a direct manner, with a logical sequence of events. No. We must meander along the back roads and blue highways to enjoy the journey. Our destination will be reached soon enough.

Friday, my mom and I went to lunch. The world once again conspired against me, and we had numerous mishaps along the way. Upon leaving her, I said, "Just watch. I'll probably get home and find a card for a package to be picked up at the post office." And I DID! I'm kind of psychic that way. But I'm not one to drive back to town after gallivanting all over the county in 107-degree heat. So I figured I could pick it up on Saturday.

Saturday morning dawned bright and hot. Who wants to drive to town on a Saturday between 9:00 and 10:00? Not this Val. That would interfere with my soda trip around noon. So I put it off until today. Monday. Between Friday afternoon and Monday morning, I lost my little orange notification card to pick up the package. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The most efficient use of my time and gas was to combine the package pickup with the soda trip. I left home at 11:30. The journey was marred by the decaying carcass of a furry black kitty on the blacktop, just inside the city limits. Except it wasn't somebody's furry black kitty. It was nobody's stinking striped skunk with the white tucked under. Phew! That odor got inside my Tahoe and attached itself to my pulse points like Eau de Pepe Le Pew. But I forged onward. I was on a mission.

The post office offered me three empty parking spaces right out front. It only has three parking spaces right out front. A couple of dudes were waiting in their cars across the street, but it's next to a little park with a fountain. I thought maybe they were on their lunch break. I skipped inside to claim my package, presuming no line at the counter. And I was right! Because I'm kind of psychic that way. However...there was no line, because the counter was closed up like a roll-top desk, big silver curtain pulled down to make a statement. In tiny letters on typing paper, taped to the top of the counter curtain, was a makeshift sign proclaiming the office closed between 11:30 and 12:00, Monday through Friday.

In my shock at finding the counter closed, I almost forgot the pervasive smell of dead mouse that haunts this post office. Fourteen years I've been going there, and fourteen years I have been slapped in the face with dead mouse odor each time I enter. How are they going to protect me from anthrax if they can't even get rid of a dead mouse smell? You would think my skunkiness would have spared me the dead mouse aroma, much like Clarice Starling using Vicks VapoRub to escape the noxious fumes of a corpse in Silence of the Lambs. But sadly, it did not.

I leaned on a cool glass countertop to await the grand re-opening. Those hot car fellows could darn well line up behind me when the clock struck twelve. I whiled away the minutes by perusing the plethora of stamps released in 2011. Famous authors, famous scientists, famous minorities, green energy, Old Glory, flowers, cartoon characters...all I needed was a Bubba Gump on the federal payroll to recite them for me. Here's an idea. Hows about the post office print ONE kind of stamp every year. Furlough all the artists on the federal payroll, forget those printing costs, those different-sized templates and dies, and multiple dyes, and just have a black on white U. S. STAMP logo. There. Saved you millions. You can continue Saturday delivery now. You're welcome.

A woman came in and stood behind me. Then a dude behind her. Good thing they respected my before-them-ness, or I might have gone postal. Heh, heh. Get it? Because I was in the POST office, and they would have made me mad! But let's get back to the focus of our story: my severe lack of respect from postal employees.

After several false starts, just to tease us, I presume, the metal curtain lifted. I stepped up to the counter. "I have a package to pick up, but I misplaced my card. It's for Val Thevictorian."

"Do you have ID?"

Okay. Here's where I'm ready to go postal. Because I lose or forget those cards all the time. And during the school year, I have my mom pick up packages for me. And when the boys are available, I have them pick up the packages. And NEVER have they EVER been asked for ID. But I, the person whose name is on the freakin' label, is expected to show ID! That woman has handed out my packages to every Tom, Dick, and Mary, as far as she knows, without asking for ID. And then she wants to play that game with ME? Criminy! She's like neighbor Sally in Cold Mountain. She'd let a wolf have my package if it walked up to the counter. But let ME, the rightful owner of said package, wait fifteen minutes in a dead-mouse-smelling lobby while reeking of skunk, ask for my own property, and she gets all rule-followy and crap. Like rapscallions roam through Backroads, finding mailboxes with package slips in them, and then go to the post office without the package slip they found, and ask for the package. Let's get real.

"I left it in the car. Do I need to go get it?"

Sigh. Stomp off to the shelves in the back room. Holler: "What's your address?"

See what she did here? She made me holler my address. So all the rapscalliony stalkers waiting in line behind me could hear it. So they could follow me to the ends of the earth, or at least my home at the edge of Backroads, and knock me in the head and take my rightful package.

"Thirteen thirteen Mockingbird Lane."

She brought it out to the counter. "Next time, make sure to have your ID."

I don't get no respect.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Heartbreaking Jerk of Staggering Meanness

I am beside myself.

Like Hayley Mills or Lindsay Lohan in The Parent Trap. Like a portly passenger required by Southwest Airlines to purchase two seats. Like an astral projector looking over his shoulder before he zooms off to more exotic locales.

I am beside myself. Okay. Figuratively, not literally, like my examples. A mishap of extreme magnitude occurred this afternoon in my kitchen. I shudder to recall the horrific incident. The bottom drops out of my stomach just to think of it. I've tried to block it out all day.

There I was, standing at the kitchen counter, preparing my lunch. Hick and the boys were not present for the cursed event. I had been to town for my daily eighty-cent 44 oz. Diet Coke refill. A meal of sharp cheddar and club crackers sounded like a tasty complement for my precious elixir. Having cut the cheese yesterday, I only needed to put my provisions on a paper plate. So simple, really.

I laid out the cheddar slices. I added the requisite number of crackers. And it happened. As I tried to shove the plastic cracker bag back into its box, the giant chip clip I had applied to preserve freshness caught on the box flap. The cracker box jerked out of control like a recalcitrant preschooler reclaiming his arm after a parental intervention for a roadway dash. It struck my 44 oz. cup, toppling it over like a giant redwood felled by insouciant loggers who don't believe in hugs.

Are you following? We're talking about my 44 OZ. DIET COKE! That I drink every day. That some may think I am addicted to. TOPPLED!

Oh, the caffeinity! I now know the sorrow of those who cry over spilled milk. The lid remained on my blue-and-white patterned foam cup. But the precious beverage leaked out the lid and straw-hole. I snatched it upright faster than a teenage boy grabbing the last slice of pizza out of the box at a classroom reward party. But the damage had been done. Lake Cola was rapidly expanding its banks. Cell Phone Island was barely keeping its face above lake level. But I was not concerned with Cell Phone Island. Part of Lake Cola was trapped in Paper Plate Reservoir!

After righting my cup at ten times the speed of one of those freaky kid cup-stackers, I threw caution to the wind, and removed the lid. I hoisted Paper Plate Reservoir with the steadiness of a bomb squad technician and the balance of a Flying Wallenda. I poured the contents back into the cup. Cell Phone Island was wrenched free from the confines of terra firma proper, and drained of its shallow sea. Back into the cup, of course. I contemplated squeegeeing the countertop inundation over the edge and into the cup as well. But the thought of errant foodstuff flotsam deterred me. I wiped the burgundy countertop of its amber stain. Placed Cell Phone Island on an oven mitt to dry out.

And proceeded to spend the afternoon with the remains of my very special thirst-quencher. Which had become, much to my chagrin, a 42 oz. Diet Coke.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Sometimes, It's Not All About Us

When I was pregnant with Genius, my parents were over-the-moon excited. Even though my sister had already given them two grandchilden, and we had Hick's two boys intermittently, their anticipation was no less than that of a royal family eagerly awaiting their first heir.

My mom was thrilled to accompany me to my obstetrician's office for routine appointments. She insisted on driving. This was back in the days before cell phones, when some folks carried car phones that came in a big zippered canvas bags, and plugged into the cigarette lighter. Which really has nothing to do with the story, other than to illustrate how overly-conscientious she was in bending over backwards to ensure my safety and comfort. It was a phone my dad had for work, and Mom barely knew how to use it, but she made a big show of having it ready on the console, just in case.

Inside the office, we made small talk until I was called into the inner sanctum. Mom made sure I had the most comfortable chair. The best angle to see the receptionist's desk. She held my purse. Asked the purpose of the visit. If I was feeling okay. Some might say she spoiled me, but I beg to differ.

Mom was at a loss what to do with herself while I was in the exam room. If another patient had brought a child along, she would talk to the kid. This was a couple of summers before she retired from teaching fourth grade. She'd hand out candy like she did to the youngsters in church. Or maybe talk to the other patients if they seemed receptive. Mom is a real people person.

On one rare occasion, I was the last patient of the day. After I was called in, the receptionist busied herself with tidying up the waiting room, (assisted by Mom), and then went in the back. Mom was alone. She picked up a magazine and paged through it. I don't think I ever saw her read a book for pleasure. Magazines were for recipes. So she skimmed until something caught her interest.

When we left, Mom quizzed me on all the details of my health, the baby's health, any changes in delivery date, next appointment time, etc. Once her curiosity was satisfied, she said, "I have a confession to make. I started reading one of those magazines in the waiting room. It was about a disease that I'd never heard of. And the more I read, the more worried I got. Every time that article mentioned a new symptom, I thought, I have that! Nervousness. Loss of appetite. Weight gain. Trouble sleeping. Fatigue. I was starting to get concerned. I just knew I had that disease. Then the article came to the bottom of the page, and I had to turn to the back and find the rest of it."

She paused. Sighed. "That's when I had to look at where I'd been reading, to find the title of the article. It was a column about taking care of your pets. It was a dog disease! I laughed and laughed. It's a good thing that receptionist didn't come out. She would have thought I was crazy. I was so relieved that I didn't have that disease!"

Thanks to Linda and her comment yesterday for reminding me of this story.

Friday, July 6, 2012

They're Just Not That Into Me and My Little Hobby

Yesterday, I shared my good news with you. My offer of publication in Unsent Letters, an anthology due for release sometime in 2013. Of course you're the last to know. I had to tell my loving family first.

The Pony was impressed. In fact, he knew before I did. That's because my bifocals were downstairs in my office, not in the kitchen where I was cooking, and sneaking a peek at my e-mail on my phone. At first I thought it must be an offer to buy something, because it was under Twin Trinity Media. The Pony got to reading out loud in front of the stove, and became quite dramatic. Like he almost couldn't believe it. Then he said, "That's really good, Mom!"

Genius was not quite so vocal. It could be because the news had to wait until the next morning, what with him dragging in at 1:00 a.m. after a 4th of July pool party and fireworks at his old girlfriend's house. I know. That's weird. The girl's dad hasn't really broken up with Genius yet, even though she's had a new boyfriend for a couple of years now. Genius was almost awake. And he agreed that this was a step in the right direction. Though I'm sure he still views me mainly as a sandwich-maker.

Hick gave me permission to accept the offer. Not that I asked. Anything I tell him, he has to announce that it's okay. Go ahead. If I told him I was going to involuntarily breathe in, breathe out, until the day I died, Hick would say, "That's okay. Go ahead." Putting his stamp of approval on it. He's the king of this castle, you know. So I told Hick the specifics. The money amounts. The offer of publication on both the blog and in the book. And Hick said, "Go ahead. Let 'em publicize it."

Apparently, somebody could use a refresher course on the difference between publish and publicize.

It kind of reminded me of the time I shared a contest win with my mom. How the person who ran the contest said that she and the other judges liked my voice above all the other entries. And Mom said, "Oh, you talked to her? And she liked your voice?"

See what I'm up against?

They mean well, my family. But they're just not that into this writing thing.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Val Hits the Big Time

And now, the news all three of you have been waiting for, the revelation that I sat on for 24 whole hours, the carrot on the stick, the light at the end of the tunnel...


Oops! Are you all right? Here, take a whiff of these smelling salts. Hope there was no structural damage to your noggin when it hit the tile. I am not responsible for accidents, you know.

Last August, I submitted a little 679-word rant cleverly titled, "Dear McDonald's Manager," to the folks at Unsent Letters. And yesterday, on an official U.S. holiday, when I had no expectations of anything other than my cedar-sided home being torched by an errant bottle rocket, I received an e-mail at 4:36 p.m. while I was whipping up some supper. The offer is for publication on the Unsent Letters blog this summer, and in the book to be released sometime in 2013. I would be paid with real money for both formats. In addition, I would receive one copy of the book, and a matching bookmark. A bookmark, people! Have I hit the big time, or what? All I have to do is respond if I agree to the terms, and await a contract.

Of course, I'm not counting my chickens until I have my money and my bookmark in my hot little hands. I could be bumped from the book like a chicken snatched from the yard by the jaws of an errant neighbor hound. But this is still great news for me. I'm pending publication, people! Pending publication!!!

I don't mean to brag, but the offer is in the mid two figures. And don't forget that bookmark! I'm not even depressed that they are not paying me in gum. Or in gold coins that I could keep in a cloth bag, like Fagin in Oliver! The movie. Not the book. Surely you don't think I have time to read a classic such as Oliver Twist for fun. The House of the Seven Gables spoiled that for me. But forget about that wordy Nathaniel Hawthorne and let's get back to ME. I'm going to be published for writing down a snarky complaint. My life as a smart-mouth b*tch (my persona according to Hick), has finally paid off. If only Doolittle Lynn was here, or even Tommy Lee Jones, he might say, "You know, Val, we may have found something you know how to do!"

After all these years of expressing myself on my super secret blog, taking money for writing seems somehow untoward. Inappropriate. This cow feels like she just hung out a shingle for the world's oldest profession. And I don't mean carpenter. Then again, if you have a talent for something, I suppose you might as well charge for your services. As long as it's legal, of course.

There might even be a bookmark in your future!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

We Interrupt Our Nation's Birthday for This Important Annoucement

Hey! HEY! Settle down! Stop all that drunken reveling and firework-shooting and listen up, people.

There's going to be a major announcement here tomorrow. That's Thursday. July 5th. Be here, or be a rear. That's right, you heard me. If you're not here, I might picture you as a pair of buttocks. A derriere. A rump. The lump that's three feet below your head. Because I'm clearly telling you that I have some earth-shattering, clock-stopping, jaw-dropping news.

Okay, so maybe it's not important to anyone besides me. But I want to share it with you. Because I'm a giver. That's how I roll.

In other, not-nearly-so-interesting news...I need to do some finagling with this blog. I've got nigh on five hundred posts here. That's too many. BLOGGER thinks I'm a 5PAMMER. So over the weekend, I'm going to try to switch out my link and put all this current stuff under a different name. It used to work on my old blog, just by renaming the current one with a ONE or TWO or THREE or FOUR or FIVE after the name. Yeah. I'm prolific. I tried it a while back on this blog, but fortune did not smile on me that day. Stuff got all convoluted, and I lost my blog name for an hour or two. So bear with me. I'll turn up somewhere. But that's not the announcement.

I'll see your all here tomorrow, right? RIGHT?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Enabler is Enlightened

Today, I tried to give Genius enough confidence to make his own sandwich. You know, because he IS perfectly capable. He does it when I'm not home. So surely, it has to be a feeling of inadequacy that causes him to be unable to stack bread, turkey, cheese, bread when I am present. It's not rocket science. It should be child's play for a lad who scored 35 (out of a possible 36) on his ACT.

Genius informed me that the actual reason he cannot build a sandwich when I am home is because I am home. I'm the mom. So it is my duty to ply him with unending sandwiches until he has gorged to his stomach's content. He further informed me of the HORROR that dawned on the citizens of Missouri Boys State the first night on campus.

"Mom! We all sat around our dorm and looked at each other and said, 'Who's going to make us sandwiches?' It was scary. We didn't know what to do. And that became obvious to the staff the first day they gave us a sandwich bar for lunch."

"Did you all just sit at empty tables, not eating? Look for a stray woman to wander in? A guest speaker, perhaps, you could all run to and inform that she was now the official sandwich maker?"

"No. But once they saw the mess that sandwich bar was in when we were done, they didn't do it again."

"Huh. It must have been terrible. Did you guys even wear clothes that matched?"

"I didn't notice that. But PEOPLE WOULD NOT STOP PEEING ON THE SEAT! It got so bad that my roommate wrote out a sign that said, 'Stop Peeing On The Seat,' and taped it to the back of the toilet. And even THAT didn't help!"

"Well, I always did think you guys said, 'Look! No hands!' and then did a kind of helicopter dance while peeing."

I didn't even ask if anybody was there to give him a little spit bath if he had something on his face. No need to initiate a case of post traumatic stress disorder.

Monday, July 2, 2012

It's Not the Heat. It's the Aridity.

Don't turn away because you can't face reading about the heat wave again! There's a real story here. Without all that much to do with the weather. I just couldn't resist the title. I like to think I'm clever. Which, apparently, is not such a good thing these days.

The heat wave has baked the earth. It's dry. Sofa king dry. "But Val," you say. "What IS sofa king dry?"

I guarantee that any of you who have ever spent quality or quantity time in a classroom full of eighth grade boys, or have ever BEEN an eighth grade boy, will be familiar with the term.

At one point in my career, I was entrusted to teach at-risk youth. I'm not complaining. I enjoy working with that demographic. Some of them are downright geniuses. They just don't apply themselves to book learnin'. Oh, but they apply themselves whole-heartedly to testing boundaries.

As luck or misfortune would have it, the first year this class was created, it was alternated with physical education. Non coed physical education. So some days, I had about thirty at-risk boys in my classroom. Boys. No girls as buffers. No reason in the world for eighth grade boys to curb their uncouth ways. Nobody to impress but other eighth grade boys.

One young Einstein was unfailingly polite. Not in a smarmy, Eddie Haskell way. But in a pretend-innocent, un-feather-ruffling, non-aggressive way. He would ask questions to which everybody knew the answer. But in a manner to try and entrap me in something somewhat inappropriate. Not having been born within the previous twenty-four hours, I was onto his tricks. A clever comeback would shut him down until we next convened.

Little Einstein tried for an entire class period to get me to say those words. Sofa king. The first tactic was to say something not quite discernible, except for those two words. The goal being for me to repeat it. "Sofa king WHAT?" However, I put the kibosh on that attempt by only replying, "I'm sorry. I couldn't hear what you said." Even though I did.

Next, he tried to tell me that he had gotten some new furniture from that store. The Sofa King store. Did I know where it was? Had I ever shopped there? Again, the goal being for me to say the words as I ruminated, "Hm. The Sofa King store? I don't think so." But I didn't bite on that bait. I just said, "No. And I don't plan to."

By then, the other boys were kind of snickering at his predicament. I had gained the upper hand by playing dumb. Little Einstein yawned and stretched. "I'm sofa king tired. Have you ever been sofa king tired, Mrs. Thevictorian?"

"No. But if you're that tired, you need to go explain it to Mr. Principal. And since you seem to be so preoccupied with royal furniture, you might want to stop by the counselor's office. But, since you're so tired, I can call them both in here right now, and we can discuss the situation."

"Oh, I don't think that will be necessary, Mrs. Thevictorian."

"I didn't think it would be."

In case you're still in the dark about sofa king, try grouping those three syllables a little differently, and putting the emphasis on a different syllable. Uh huh.

Or just ask an eighth grade boy.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Seasonal Reading

I have been remiss, in recent years, in maintaining a routine I started many years ago. Before children. Before marriage. Before money. Before satellite and cable television. Back when I was a single teacher, lolling about on my brown-and-orange plaid couch, wishing I could afford bonbons, letting afternoon soap operas play on my tiny TV to keep me company, while I wallowed in my annual summer vacation reading of The Stand.

Yes. The heat of the summer. The Stand. I could feel the sweat on Fran's brow as she stitched up her daddy in that tablecloth shroud and thump-thump-thumped him down the stairs and out to his garden plot. I thirsted with Stu Redmond and Judge Farris as they waited for beers to cool in the creek. Heard the grill sizzle in the restaurant where Larry Underwood cooked a steak for high-as-a-kite Rita Blakemoor. Smelled the body odor of Harold Lauder. Tasted the green apples of Tom Cullen, thankfully, rather than the leg of Trask, or the rat that Lloyd Henreid munched on in the crossbars Hilton.

Maybe I'll dig out my unabridged hardback next week when Hick and the boys take off on a roasting vacation south of not-heaven.

There's nothing better than re-reading The Stand in the oppressive heat of a Missouri summer. Unless, perhaps, it's re-reading The Shining.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Parched and Broiling

The weather.

I have not seen conditions such as these in all my born days. And I am quite long-toothed. No spring chicken. Born way past yesterday. The ground is baking, and somebody did not read the recipe. Nobody is going to want a piece of this.

Genius has been robbed of at least $200 in lawn-mowing money this month. Because there is no lawn mowing when there is no lawn growing. While I have a teeny-tiny bit of sympathy for Genius, I have much more for those people who depend on the sale of fireworks each summer for a significant chunk of their income. Nobody is buying. Fireworks cannot be set off in these conditions. And who wants to browse under a heat-holding tent to spend money on incendiary bombs that cannot be detonated? Those pitiful cash-register tenders have my condolences. Especially those set up on blacktop parking lots. Or the ones working out of semi trailers.

How HOT is it?

*Hotter than a two-dollar pistol, according to George "No Show" Jones

*Hotter than a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout, according to Johnny and June Carter Cash

*Hotter than a hoochie coochie, according to Alan Jackson

*Hotter than Mojave in My Heart, according to Iris DeMent

 How DRY is it?

*Drier than a Survivor contestant's mouth before the tribe gets fire.

*Drier than a counter wiped by Madge, aka Rhoda Morgenstern's mom, with Bounty, the quicker picker-upper.

*Drier than a joke by Steven Wright. Such as: "Anyone who believes in telekinesis...raise my hand."

*Drier than the unmoisturized elbow of a snake crawling across the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Ooh Boys (It's Hot). So singeth the Ozark Mountain Daredevils. And those good ol' Missouri boys should know.

Friday, June 29, 2012

This Off-the-Grid Thing Ain't All It's Cracked Up to Be

And...we're back!

No. That's not Kramer welcoming you back to the Merv Griffin Show set that he used to furnish his apartment. You won't find George with the squirrel he ran over and paid the medical bills for, nor Jerry discussing how he drugged his current date in order to play with her collection of 1960s toys. It's just me. Val. Back from her sojourn in the land of the unelectric.

Whew! I haven't been that put-out since the Great Icepocalypse of Ought Six. Thankfully, my powerlessness this time was limited to less than seven hours. Instead of five days. In case you think I'm needlessly ramping up my outrage over my electrical outage, let me assure you that I am not. We are an all-electric household. So any and all semblance of civilization grinds to a halt. No light, no AC/heat, no fridge, no oven, no microwave, no fan, no laundry, no water, no toilet-flushing, no showers, no cell-phone charging, no regular phone, no garage-door opening without a strapping son to climb onto the side of the large SUV and grab the cord that dangles above. NO COMPUTER! Unless you count my laptop until the battery runs out. And you saw how that turned out, yesterday.

We managed to get the water left in the pipes. But no pumping from the well. What? You think its got a bucket, like a cute little wishing well, or like that one where Nicole Kidman saw the crows flying and Inman walking back to her in Cold Mountain? Nope. It's a pipe down to the water table, with an electric pump. Sucks to be thirsty. Or one our pets. That's the first thing I commanded The Pony to do--fill up the water for the goats, chickens, and dogs, with the water left in the pipes and the hose. The cats were on their own. They prefer to drink from the fish pond or the swimming pool, anyway. And with our three toilets, we had about six flushes to play around with. There was plenty of light for reading if you didn't mind being hot. If you preferred to be cool, the basement was available, though dark.

Lunch was peanut butter and honey on ciabatta bread. Or spongy white bread if your name was Genius. The Pony had just charged his Kindle Fire while overseeing the goat herd as they grazed in the front yard. He had a bit of laptop battery remaining. And a charged phone. So he fared the best. I saved my laptop. Just in case. Because I needed to report the outage to Ameren, and to check on the estimated repair time. Genius said, "I'm using my laptop battery until it's dead!" He was blasting music as well. He's always been one to go all out.

The problem with my laptop is that in order to receive an internet signal, it has to perch precariously in front of the living room window. It has a Sprint connect card dealybobber. Genius has routed it to all the other computers.  That's all we can get. Can't get cable. Can't get Hughesnet. DISH was not feasible for whatever reason Genius determined. It's not like I can unplug that laptop and carry it around the house all willy-nilly, slurping up an internet signal. The boys both have phone plans for unlimited internet. But not me. And they have to wedge their phones on the windowsill at the front of the house to maintain a connection. Yeah. We might as well be pioneers relying on the Pony Express for information.

Hick has taught Genius how to shut off the power, and how to get the generator running, and which breakers he can turn on to keep the refrigerator going, and for lights and TV. However, the generator was not used all winter, and needed jumping from a car battery to get going, and we do not have a gasoline stockpile like we would in the winter...so the generator had to wait for Hick. And it still won't run the air conditioner.

It's time for this buttercup to toughen up. Or buy a bigger generator.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Do Not Forsake Me O My Electricity...

POWER OUTAGE! saving battery power

6:35 p.m. UPDATE
We have had about 10 minites of electricticy today. Ameran Trucks have heen driving by on our gravel road, parking at the end of our drivewya, workmen standing in the road talking to women i AMMUVE wlife out here so that I have to drive thourhg my dying frass to get on the road to go to town to B UY food becuaese HELLO i can't cook and whould not open the fridge because that lets heat in to start spoilage. I wouldn't wish six hours of p[owerlesslness on my worst enemy, or even grammar scoofflaws. Becaue, you see, it forsces me to ype on my upstairs laptop iwth battery power, not my beloved desktop, New Delly, in my dar, formerly cool, basement lair. And Shiba, the laptop, and I are not quite sympatico on the placement of the keys, after using that fraek of a keyboard that Genius hooked up to my New Delly.

Soory the you all must suffer through this. It's knndof like the letters i got from My mom in college, when she decided to type them. Who knew? She never had a lesson. But mine is sheer laziness in going back to correct my mistakes. Sometimes I hit th right keys and get on a roll. Sometimes ont. You should try it somjetime, stiiing on an end table in your fronnt gpictiruyre window. sun blazing through th e blingds, blinding you, sweating at 83 degrees and counint, hoping his most recent connection will hold out and not disappear in a whoof of dust. I'm afraid to fire up New Delly, as other bsemtn comptuers heva bene friend by these off againh on agaonin outages, even thoug ;ullgged into an expensidve surge strip.

My apologies. I have been stopping to drip water on my extremities so they willevaporate with th eceiling fan that is running courtesy of Hick's arrival home and firing up of the generator that is not poerwerful enough to run the AC. But we can have a light, the fridge, and TV, and a couple of computers.

We'll see what develops as the night wears on. This is the proce we pay for living in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of other nobodies. We're not exactly a top proiority when 47 homjes are out. Even though my brother in loaw the former mayolr works fo r Ameren. Fat lot of good that does me!

Ciao for now.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Perfectly Good Waste of James Carville

Guess who's back. Uh huh. You must be psychic. My arch nemesis, Genius. The war of wills is once again in effect. Critical boiling point was narrowly averted this morning as missiles were launched from couch and recliner.

"James Carville said..."

"I can't believe you were in the same room as James Carville! Breathing the same air! Molecules that were in James Carville might now be in you!"

"Yeah, well. I had a really good seat, too. On the second row."

"Did you take a picture? Get an autograph?"

"No. We weren't allowed."

"I can't believe you didn't even get a picture of James Carville!"

"He was actually the best speaker we heard all week. And before he talked, they showed a bunch of clips of him, and most of them were people impersonating him on Saturday Night Live. Did you know he called himself 'Old Snake-Head'?"

"So I've heard."

We chitchatted a bit about his Boys State adventure, then slid back into our regular routine. The one which involves Genius trying to manipulate me into doing things for him that he is perfectly capable of doing for himself. Most of it involving food.

"There's nothing to eat in this house."

"There's LOTS of food in this house."

"I'm going to make a sandwich."

"We're having big sandwiches for supper. There's all kinds of chicken in the freezer."

"I don't want chicken. I saw some french toast sticks. But that's not really lunch food."

"Make some french toast sticks."

"I need some bacon with them, but there's not any."

"There's bacon."

"Will you make some for me?"

"No. You can do it yourself."

"I don't know how to cook bacon!"

"Simple. Use the big skillet, on the big burner, on medium. Lay it in the pan. The fat will turn transparent, then start to lose the oil, then it's time to turn. Don't put the heat higher. It will spatter all over."

"That's too HARD!"

Genius went to rummage around the kitchen some more. Went to his room. Came back and plopped on the couch again. "I have to write a letter to send to one of my Boys State guys. We're all writing him, but he doesn't know. One of the guys got the address from his dad's Facebook."

"Hope he doesn't read his dad's Facebook."

"Eewww! Who would do THAT?"

"Apparently, not you. Are you telling me because you want me to mail it for you?"

"Yes. You're going to town anyway for a soda."

"Aren't you the one who refused to pick up a package at the post office for me yesterday?"

"I didn't go anywhere NEAR the post office!"

"The highway is within one mile of the post office! And that one day, you went to your friend's house right by the post office, and then brought your letters back home for me to mail the next day."

"Hey! It was dark. So I didn't mail them. Oh, well. You need to bring me lunch because I've got a live blog starting in a half hour."

"So you want me to cater to you so you can watch your webinar?"

"It's NOT a WEBINAR! Why do you always call it that?"

"I have a mental block with some things. That's one. Another one is that cult that thought God was picking them up on the back side of the comet so they killed themselves by drinking Kool-Aid or something so they would be ready. They all wore Nike shoes. But it wasn't Jim Jones."

"I KNOW who drank the Kool-Aid, and it wasn't them. But I can't think of their name, either. The comet was the Hale-Bopp. I'm looking it up."

"It was some kind of simple name. Two words. But I can never think of it. I can picture those bodies laying in their beds, waiting. Dead. But the news only showed the Nike shoes."

"Heaven's Gate! That's it. Heaven's Gate."

"Yeah. That's the one. What's your webinar about?"


"You are giving me a pain in my angel wing attachment area."

"I can't take this anymore! Help me!" Genius put a couch pillow over his face. Leaving his shirtless stomach and shorts-clad legs visible while he writhed in agony.

"You know you're laughing. Just because you put a pillow over your head doesn't mean I can't see the area-where-your-abs-should-be convulsing."

"Yeah, right. Maybe I'm having a seizure. You don't care!"

"Yes, I do. Cease that seizing!"

"Don't! I can't take this! And stop rubbing your knees! That sound is driving me crazy!"


Genius fled to his room. A half-hour later, I caught him making a sandwich. "I was going to offer to bring you food from town. But now I see you're making a sandwich. Which we will be having for supper, too."

"Go ahead and bring me something. This is only one sandwich." He grabbed a bag of Blazin' Hot Munchies and headed to his room.

It's days like this that make me wonder how he will survive once he finally escapes my apron strings. Can you believe it? Sitting right in front of James Carville and not even sneaking a phone picture? I have obviously failed in my child-rearing endeavor.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Thumping the Shark

Mid-morning, I like to wander out on the front porch and survey the kingdom that Hick built. I grab some stale bread or cereal, supper leftovers, and/or refrigerator refuse, and walk to the side of my wraparound porch that faces the goat pen and the barn. The minute I step out, the chickens flock to me. Some are so bold as to jump up on the porch. Others sway from foot to foot below, demanding a handout. I enjoy leaning over the rail, tossing treats, contemplating the day. Until my thoughts are rudely interrupted.

Cue the Jaws theme.

They always strike without warning. The pointy noses of Juno and Ann. Stabbing. Poking. Jabbing. Thigh, calf, knee. They are not particular. It's like an attack by a couple Great Whites. Only more playful. I imagine them ramming my soon-to-be carcass to-and-fro just under the ocean surface in a spirited game of cartilaginous fish Val-leyball. One moment I'm peacefully drifting in my tractor-tire inner-tube, bobbing in the sun, not a care in the world. And the next, I'm thrashing to escape the pointy snouts that threaten to rip the ample flesh from my osteoporitic old bones.

I suppose it's a herding instinct. Ann is, after all, a german shepherd. We haven't really figured out Juno yet. I'm betting on border collie/black lab. (Or borador, a new word I just learned from The Google when I looked up pictures of dogs that look like my Juno). Those canines like to come up behind me and poke away. Never in inappropriate places. They're true ladies.

When I toss snacks to the chickens, I have to provide for the pups. Especially Juno. She will stand behind me, or more often wedge her way between me and the porch rail, gazing up at me hopefully. NewMommygonnagiveJunosnack? I can see in her clear hazel eyes that's what she's thinking. I toss bits to her, mainly to keep her on the porch. But that's usually futile. She will leave a scrap of pork steak to jump off the porch and glide through the grass to scarf up the chicken treats. Dry white bread. Cinnamon. Toast. Crunch. Slaw. That's right. Juno will scatter the chickens to lap up expired slaw rather than sit on the porch and have meat. Crazy dog. Ann eats what's given her, then goes to another section of the porch to lay down.

If, by a miracle, I can keep Juno on the porch, which is most often accomplished by The Pony stroking her skull constantly, she still stays hyper. Many a time we toss her a scrap, and she whacks her head on the porch rail, or my leg, or the corner of the house. She's overeager, and inattentive to inanimate objects.

And heavens to Betsy, beware the moment we turn to walk back toward the door! Poor Juno thumped her noggin good on a wrought-iron chair the other day. I swear I heard it ring like a bell. She needs a very special helmet to protect her brains from scrambling. You'd think most of the sense has been knocked out of her already.

Maybe that's why she's so happy all the time.

From the internet, and not my dog, but...This is what she looks like, except with clear hazel eyes, longer ears, longer hair, and one tiny patch of white on her chest. But the smile is the same. I need to get a recent photo of my rescued daughter!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Call the Blah-Blah-Blahmbulance!

I have not been officially sworn in, but I like to think of myself as a member in good standing of the Grammar Police force. As such, I find it necessary to write a few citations for folks who have been playing fast and loose with the rules. The current statute which is violated most often is Ordinance Number 12-420: improper use of idioms in blog comments.

Submitted for your perusal, the following violations observed this week. And it's only Monday. 

No. An issue is not cut and dry. It is cut and dried. As in finished. Certain. Black or white. No gray areas. Absolute. No doubt about it. Definite. No room for error or misunderstanding. Done.

Perhaps you would say, "Stick a fork in him, he's done!" Saying something is cut and dry is akin to saying, "Stick a spoon in him, he's done." No. Improper.

What in tarnation is a beckon call? It ain't no booty call. Nor a courtesy call. Nor a second call, like when track and field athletes are being summoned to their participation area.

It should be beck and call. "Beck" being a shortening of "beckon," a gesture meaning to come here.

It is NOT, as suggested by our old friend Wikipedia:

* "Beck is a short term for "Becoming" (summoning someone to you as if by order) and call means to call out or demand."

What? Is the Statue of Liberty on strike? Refusing to hold that confounded torch? Did part of the angry mob decide that pitchforks are enough, and discard the flaming torches? Did Harry Potter drop a flashlight?

It should be not carrying the torch anymore. As in, not promoting a cause or maintaining a love of someone or something.


Um. Is somebody cornering the market on new wells? Making money off the thirst of others? Sucking in all the rain after a drought?

It should be opportunist of the first order. Meaning, coming before all others. Prime.

DO NOT refer to thefreedictionary.com, please. Because it seems to be promoting misinformation. It actually gives a definition of the phrase "of the first water." As in: 

* Fig. of the finest quality. This is a very fine pearl—a pearl of the first water. Tom is of the first water—a true gentleman. 
* (literary)  of the best or most extreme kind He is an artist of the first water. Her husband is a bully of the first water.
What's the deal? Are the youth of today turning into a bunch of Norm Crosbys? Can they not hear well because they've blown out their eardrums listening to loud music with earbuds? Or do they text and use autocorrect too much? Do they read too many texts of others using autocorrect?
I wash my hands of these scofflaws! I cannot do it alone. I need to enlist a multitude to help me in my war against the ungrammatically correct. I will be signing up new recruits in the basement of the Backroads City Hall annex next Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. Refreshments will be served. I need a volunteer to bring the icy on the cake.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

One Tomato, Two Tomato, Three Tomato, Four

Nothing delights me more than finding out somebody has a problem. Not because I'm cruel, and find joy in the misfortune of others. Ahem! What kind of person do you take me for? Besides one who also delights in using propositions to end sentences with.

I use the lemons of others to make my own lemonade! Take, for instance, Tammy's problem. She used her car to decompose some meat. No common compost heap for Tammy! She thinks outside the box. I wouldn't be surprised if she came up with a coffee table book about coffee tables. But I'm sure that's on the back burner while she tries to de-smellify her car. If she's looking for a scent to mask the dead beef odor, I suggest The Beach. Not the East River. The Beach.

Since I am really no help in solving Tammy's problem, I skedaddled to the kitchen for my lemonade juicer. No use letting a crisis go to waste. I can use this incident to enlighten you all on my own brush with an unpleasant odor of my own negligence. Thanks, Tammy, for the virtual piggyback ride upon your coattails.

In my misspent youth, I rented a house in Cuba, Missouri. That in itself is probably the biggest clue as to what is to come. Small towns are not known for their high-end rental property. Because I had just signed a teaching contract to the tune of $11,800 per year, I was in the market for an economical abode. Don't go thinking this was back in the days when gas was twenty cents a gallon and the Texaco man came out and pumped it while squeegeeing your windshield and checking the oil. No, this was smack dab in the middle of the Reagan years. I was not exactly a Rockefeller.

The price of my new rental cottage escapes me. But I know that it had four rooms. The kitchen was as big as the living room. I had a bedroom where I could hear the squirrels in the attic. And the bathroom was made from a little porch off the back of the house that slanted at a thirty-degree angle. But I was independent, baby! I had a front yard and a back yard. A driveway. I was the queen of my castle.

Every couple of weekends, I made it back to Backroads. My mother and my grandma made sure I returned with a bounty of foodstuffs to tide me over. Other weekends, I hit the road to visit friends in Springfield or Kansas City. My job kept me hoppin', because I was also a coach. So I didn't actually spend much time in my party palace, other than to lay my head at night.

Soon after I moved in, just as the school year and the volleyball season had gotten underway, which is mid-August in rural Missouri, my grandma gifted me with a cardboard flat of tomatoes from her garden. I love fresh tomatoes! Sliced with a sprinkling of salt, stuffed with some tuna fresh from the can, as a side for a fried pork chop, or on a hamburger with a slice of pickle...I was not about to let my tomato stash go to waste.

I did not have a kitchen table, because up to this point, I had been renting apartments, and the last one I lived in was furnished. So I saw no problem with eating my meals with plate perched on the arm of the couch while watching TV. My little kitchen had an old gas stove, a really old refrigerator with a pull-down latch kind of door handle, and an itty bitty countertop beside the sink that overlooked the grassless back yard. My flat of tomatoes had no place to call their own. You can't put fresh tomatoes in the fridge. Then they taste like storebought tomatoes. The counter was previously occupied by my dish drainer. Surely you didn't think I had a two-compartment sink! It was an old, old sink, probably old enough to be called a zinc. And even I knew better than to put my cardboard flat on top of the gas-burnered stove. Those things have pilot lights, you know.

My tomatoes had to reside on the floor of the kitchen. A floor that was carpeted in an unbecoming brown and tan pattern, with a splash of burnt orange. I would never have chosen carpeting for a kitchen floor, but then again, I would never have built a bathroom at a thirty-degree angle. Renters can't be choosers.

Off I went for the weekend, leaving my tomatoes to hold down the fort. Did you know that when tomatoes spoil, they liquify? And that the liquid seeps through cardboard, and through carpet, and insinuates itself into carpet padding and ancient wood? It does! And it has an odor all its own. Which takes many weeks to dissipate, no matter how often you wash your kitchen carpet with dishwashing liquid.

But it's not as bad as rotted meat.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

I Can't Get No Roadway Traction

Anarchy has once again reared its disrespectful head in Backroads.

The structures beside our infrastructure are not safe. I might have mentioned how our big bridge has been under construction off and on since May. The MODOT grinders have been out in full force, but little else has been accomplished. The old pavement has been scraped away, but a new surface has yet to make an appearance. That means our lengthy bridge is groovy. And not in the psychedelic sixties sense.

The problem with grooves on the bridge deck is that traction is diminished. Traction results from friction. Friction is sorely lacking when surface area is decreased. So instead of my tires gripping the pavement, my tires grip alternating ridges in the pavement. Which is fine right now. But when the current drought ends, and I find myself dodging oncoming traffic on a rain-soaked roadway, there could be trouble. And we won't even worry yet about frost forming in the morning on this bridge.

MODOT marked both ends with large, diamond-shaped, glowing-orange, nylon signs after the last bridge-scraping. Not so important to me, because I drive over it every day, and know the situation. But imagine some poor sap just passing through, caught unawares by this groovy bridge, and the havoc that might ensue, should such a poor sap apply brakes while passing over the span.

My official road-trip photographer was a bit off his game today, but here is what he captured:

You will notice that the basic structure, and the flags waving to draw attention to the sign, are still there. It's the message part that's missing. The GROOVED PAVEMENT sign. Seriously. Are there people out there named GROOVED PAVEMENT? Why would anybody want that sign? Two of such signs? Because the one on the other end is missing, as well.

Pictures are not available, but across the road at the left of this photo was a car parked on the thin shoulder. And just behind where the photo was taken was a pickup truck in the ditch. The plot thickens. Were the perpetrators apprehended while in the act? If so, why were the signs not replaced? Did two vehicles spin out on the grooved pavement, funneled off the bridge by the guard rails? For sure, the perpetrators were lucky that the stop sign shooter was not target-practicing during the heist. Either the stop sign itself is also missing, or it's just out of the picture to the right. I was so discombobulated by the GROOVED PAVEMENT disappearance that I did not notice the stop sign.

Scofflaws are afoot in the heartland.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Val Has Been De-Boned

I feel unwitty, so unwitty...I feel unwitty, unpretty, ungaaaaay. I also feel unqualified to sing a selection from West Side Story.

My funny bone up and left me today. Packed up all his troubles in an old kit bag, unsmilingly, then dumped them out, gathered them into a red bandana, tied it to a hobo stick, and strode off down the driveway faster than that fiery little stomach toted his suitcase out of the Heartburn Hotel.

I don't know who he thinks he is, my funny bone. I've tried to humor him. But he refuses to pull his own weight. Who ever heard of Rowan's Laugh-In? The Smothers Brother? The One Stooge? The Kid in the Hall? The Not-Ready-For-Primetime Player? I can't shoulder the full responsibility of entertaining the masses day in and day out. I need my partner.

Now I sit here, stewing in my own juice, plotting revenge on F. Bone. I've a good mind to pinch him between two lawn chair arms. That oughta get him tingling. Twang him like a banjo string. We belong together. We do our best work when he's under my skin. He's nothing on his own.

Oh, he'll be back.

Without me, he's just another ulnar nerve.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Thinkin' of Them's Workin' Up My Appetite, Lookin' Forward to Four More Visual Delights.

My day has been filled with visual delights. I bemoan the fact that I am not a photographer.

Nine Mowers Mowing
On the way to town, I pass by one of the local prisons. This correctional facility has a procedure for mowing the grounds that I think of as gang mowing. They were out in full force this afternoon. The guard, in his brown uniform, on his green John Deere riding mower with the hand controls rather than a steering wheel, was out in front. Behind him, staggered like fighter jets in V formation, came eight inmates on their red generic mowers of the same type. They, however, were clad in prison gray and white, with white face masks like protective cups strapped over their nose/mouth area. We wouldn't want them to inhale dust while toiling in the fresh air, I suppose. Those mowers were flying! The colorful crew in motion looked like a Mario Kart video game.

Rooftop Surfing
I witnessed an older-model, dark-blue car with a black vinyl roof pull out of a Burger King parking lot. Perched over the driver's head, on the outside of the car, mind you, was a cup of soda. With a straw. The car rolled downhill on the lot, braked briefly, and made a right onto the road. The cup did not move. As the car accelerated to the thirty mile-per-hour speed limit, the cup fell backward. That's all. It did not roll. It did not leave the car roof. It lay at rest as the car continued. I lost sight of them before my light turned. Even though I followed that route myself, I never found the cup. Did the driver hear it topple, and reach up to reclaim his beverage? The pavement told no tales.

Turkey (sort of) in the Straw
Rounding the S-curve on my blacktop road home, I saw that a local cattle farmer had baled his hay field. The red tractor and pronged hay-comber (that's what I call it, anyway) had been in the bovine-vacated field yesterday. They were still present today, with the addition of many giant round hay bales. Perched on one was a regal black bird. It was bigger than a crow. Fuller. A turkey! Sitting right on top of the big bale. I hit the straight section of the road and stole another look at that magnificent specimen. It was a turkey buzzard. The rubbery red head gave him away.

Two Cats a-Snoozing
We have two male cats of the orange-striped variety. One is more orange, one is more tan. It's a subtle difference, unless you recognize them like your own family. They were nodding in the gray wrought-iron porch chair, intertwined with each other, eyelids mostly closed. They made a fluffy geometric pattern of light and dark stripes. Two heads, six legs, and one tail were on display.

I miss Genius and his fancy-schmancy camera.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Hick's Bright Idea

Hick has seen the light. And now I am forced to see it, too. Be careful what you specifically ask for.

Last night, Hick announced that after supper, he was making a trip to Lowe's to pick up a light bulb. Of course I asked him what he was talking about. Because he's not known for his intuitiveness. And I had only mentioned the darkness of my kitchen once. How the light fixture had three sockets, and only one bulb was burning.

Hick said he was going to pick up a light for outside, next to the pool. That's because it's necessary to have a light burning by the pool all night, illuminating the french doors that lead from our master sleeping chamber out onto the back porch, which overlooks the pool. Not that he would know. He of the quilt pulled over his face every night. A pool light, you see, is much more needed than a kitchen light, where the short-temper cook endeavors to keep all of her digits intact.

Upon being informed of my lack of kitchen foot-candles, Hick said, "Huh." Pretty much his standard response to anything I bring up. He went and got the step stool and took the cover off the kitchen light. "You have TWO bulbs burning." Indeed, I did. Two of those tiny twisty pig-tail lights, two of which are as bright as one regular bulb. They would be fine if I had six of them in my kitchen light fixture.

This morning, I noticed that I could see better in the kitchen. But barely. Because my retinas were blown out by the other good deed performed by Hick last night. Which was installing two big round bulbs over the bathroom mirror, where their predecessors had long been dead. The other six in that light strip were real dim bulbs compared to the new pair. I felt like I was on the surface of the sun. It was all I could do not to scream, "Bright light! Bright light!" like little Gizmo the Mogwai when Billy had to bandage a boo-boo on his noggin.

A kitchen counter is an area where bright light is welcomed. A strip above the bathroom sink that now makes Broadway, 42nd Street, and Times Square look like McDougal's cave after Tom and Becky ran out of candles is not. I don't need to see my morning face in the light of ten thousand suns.

I can see it all night long in the mirror beside the bed.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Maureen O'Hara, James Carville, and Emily Litella

Genius is away at Missouri Boys State for eight whole days. So I am sorely lacking in material. However, in absentia, he supplied me with today's virtual stick to use in the poking of Hick. It's not so good as the stick proffered by the harpy in The Quiet Man, for John Wayne to use to beat the lovely lady, Maureen O'Hara. But it's serviceable.

I have been keeping up with Genius's exploits through the Boys State website. He has called twice, after 11:00 p.m., when lights out is supposed to be 10:30. I hope he is not arrested by his city law enforcement officials. Participants are banned from email and cell phone usage, except for miniscule time allotments. At least that's what the informational material said. But before he left, Genius told me about the scheduled guest speakers.

The only name I retained was James Carville. That's because I loooves me some James Carville! I find him particularly hilarious. And quite shrewd. So pardon me if I've forgotten all the other famous political speakers. Office-holders, perhaps, from our own fair state. Genius might as well have been telling our hyperactive pup, Juno, how to fly a 747. It didn't register.

When Hick returned to the house for supper, after his daily reunion with his goat and chicken brigade, I told him that last night, Genius saw James Carville. And my dear husband, who may or may not be challenged in the auditory department, replied, "Where, over by the chickens?"

SCREEEEEECH! That's the sound of a needle on an LP record, for those of you who have achieved a certain maturity. And the sound of squealing brakes on an out-of-contol Chevy Volt for those who have not. It ranks right up there with my all-time favorite non sequiturs. Like the following exchange from my college days, when the coach teaching the soccer class was late by about ten minutes. COACH: "Oh, I'm sorry. I was sweeping in my office." STUDENT: "Well, we're tired, too. But we were here on time." And that was WAY before Jerry Seinfeld even thought of having Marlee Matlin on his show to spy on George's ex-girlfriend.

Why in the world would Hick think that James Carville was over by our chicken pen? I'm sure James has much more important things to do. Like speaking at Missouri Boys State, for example. But it might explain those strange tiny eggs we found last week.

I had to get to the bottom of Hick's assumption. It's best to get right to the point with him. No pussy-footing around. No beating around the bush. No coming at it from an angle. No putting the cart before the horse. No hem-hawing around. A feat which I find quite difficult. So I simply said, "Why in the world would James Carville be over by our chicken pen?"

And Hick replied, "Oh. I thought you said you saw a big cardinal."

So for Mr. Emily "Hick" Litella, I politely say, "Never mind."

Monday, June 18, 2012

Again With the Conspiracies

I will be the first to admit that I am a suspicious person by nature. The world, after all, conspires against me. My life is teeming with conspiracies. Conspiracies swarm around me like fingerling fish at a hatchery swarm around a food pellet flicked into their watery pen. So of course I question the exchange that occurred today as I purchased my 44 oz. Diet Coke.

I think I purchased my daily dose of caffeinated colored water. I handed over cold, hard cash. And I left with my tasty elixir. But the transaction was fraught with inconsistency.

As I entered the convenience store, foam cup in hand, I detoured to walk by the counter. Waved my cup. "Just getting a refill." The old lady nodded. She was not the usual clerk, but was wearing their red shirt uniform. The regular gals are more rotund. Younger. I moved around the immense Natural Light structure to the soda fountain. I suppose they did not sell as much beer as anticipated over Father's Day weekend. That display was as high as an elephant's eye. Or at least as high as this elephant's shoulders. I clunked the minimal amount of ice into my recycled cup. Added the Diet Coke. Popped on a lid, And went to the counter to pay.

Old Lady and a younger clerk were having a conversation. Old Lady stepped over to the register. I waited for her to ring up my refill. She did not touch the register. She held out her hand, palm up. "It's a refill," I said. She nodded. And kept her hand out. I dumped my three quarters and five pennies into her palm. She closed her fingers. Didn't say thanks, Didn't ring it up. Didn't nod. Only turned to resume her conversation. "Okay. Thanks." I turned and headed out.

For all I know, Old Lady pocketed my money. I did my part. And made a mental note never to cash in lottery tickets in this establishment.

Let the surveillance cameras sort it out.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Backroads Ms. Manners Tells the Village to Lay Off

Dear Backroads Ms. Manners,

What is wrong with people? How can the species continue with so many individuals missing the common sense gene? 

Today I was behind a car in the McDonald's drive-thru line that had no back windshield. And in the back seat was a little girl at least four years old sucking on a pacifier like a real-life Maggie Simpson all hopped up on methamphetamines. She turned to stare at me suck-suck-suck over and over, nothing between us but the safety glass of my own Tahoe's windshield. You would think that family could save up their fast-food dollars to get a back windshield put into that car. And it don't cost nothin' to pry the pacifier out of your nearly-adult daughter's soon-to-be misshapen mouth.

Oh, but that was not the extent of my mind-blowing observations today, Ms. Manners! For the second time this week, I encountered a slim girl-child driving a John Deere Gator on a busy convenience store parking lot. WTF, Ms. Manners? Those vehicles are illegal on the roadways, even with adult drivers. So what kind of dad lets a six-year-old drive one across a mini mall, down through a commuter parking lot, across a road leading to an interstate-side motel, and onto a convenience store lot with a 12-pump gasoline bay?

My head is spinning. Please advise.

Sniffing Smelling Salts as I Type

Dear Sniffy,
What is wrong with people is a bad case of the ME-ME-MEs. The current crop of Homo sapiens are too busy living for their own pleasure to care for their young. The herd will be thinned as nature intends, eventually eliminating the line that is without the common sense gene.

Don't worry your sniffing little sniffer. Is it any skin off of your sniffer if a hayseed family carts its offspring around with no barrier between the young 'uns and any debris that might be kicked up from automobile tires at 75 mph? I think not. What would you suggest, that they strap helmets on their progeny to prevent brain damage? That would sorely cut into the food budget. The food budget that goes farther at McDonalds than at grocery stores that sell fresh fruits, vegetables, smelly cheeses, and lean meats. Have you not heard? Classic sandwiches are now two for five dollars.

Put yourself in the noggin of that pacified child, Sniffy. Would you not need continual comfort once you realized that you have no chance to raise yourself above the level of your parental units? Times are tough in this day and age. And they ain't a-changin'. So lay off the binky hate. At least this child was not on the cover of the New York Times suckling at her mama's bosom, without the means to purchase intensive therapy as this image follows her throughout her natural life.

A father allows his six-year-old daughter to drive a motorized vehicle in areas of heavy traffic for one of several reasons. Perhaps he had partaken of too much celebratory Father's Day adult beverages, and did not want to risk a DUI that would leave him unable to provide for his family, such as buying brand-name off-road vehicles costing upwards of $8,000. Perhaps he was saving money on gas so he could afford convenience store treats for the child, and let her drive so he could do mental math while not being a distracted driver. Perhaps he was looking for a lawsuit and sympathy. Again, this is not really your business, Sniffy, unless you ram into that sweet child o' his in order to teach them both a lesson. And I fear that you would be the one to earn a failing grade in such an interaction.

Lighten up. Child-rearing techniques are best left to the actual parents of said children, and not regulated by the government and/or corncob-butted busybodies such as you, Sniffy. Even common-senseless folks have a right to procreate, and raise up their young 'uns in the manner they see fit.

Backroads Ms. Manners

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Sometimes, the Freak Leaks Out

Sometimes, I get vibes from people.

Let's be clear. I'm no Johnny Smith from The Dead Zone, reading minds of people I touch. I just get a hunch sometimes. Probably a product of my active imagination. But I get a sense of emotion. A scenario might pop into my head. It doesn't happen often. And I never know when it will or won't.

Thursday, for example. I had picked up The Pony from his last day of summer school PE. We turned onto our gravel road. There had been a truck in front of us that also turned in. The truck pulled off the side of the road by the creek. I looked in the window as we drove by. You can't be too careful. When folks who don't live out here park on our road, it's sometimes good to get a look at them. Just in case. You never know when another portable meth lab might be dumped. Or a load of kittens. Or a refrigerator.

The old man inside the truck glared at me. An evil glare. Like he had nothing left to lose. He had gray, longish hair. And a pointy gray beard. The feeling I got was that he'd served time, he wasn't going back, and heaven help anybody who got in his way. It was creepy. A chill went down my spine. Of course I kept driving.

He could have been a loving grandpa, a foster father of fifty kids, a seasoned veteran who raised money for amputees. But that's not the vibe I got from him. I wasn't going just by looks. There was a time I backed into a dude with a crazy meth beard at the bank drive-thru, but I didn't get that sense of evil from him. Not even with his big dog on a chain, and him yelling, "Stay in the car!" Which I later gathered he was saying to his woman in the passenger seat. Nope. So it wasn't just looks.

Conversely, yesterday I pulled into the Save-A-Lot mini-mall as an old van was pulling out. A large, dark-haired woman was in the driver's seat. And the vibe I got from her was elation. She was over-the-moon happy about something. I didn't get a sense of what. But she was ecstatic. She was alone in the van. It's not like she was laughing and talking with someone. But she had that joyful look about her. And it was not the jolly fat woman stereotype I was picking up. She was definitely anticipating something pleasant.

Yeah. I'm sure it's just my overactive imagination. But why does it come and go? Why don't I make these snap judgments all the time? I am one odd duck. But not a Johnny Smith.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Icky and Scratchy Show

I don't mean to brag, but at the present time, I am sporting one big ol' honkin' fingernail.

Not for Val are French manicures. Nor the soaking of her digits in Palmolive at the behest of Madge. No fancy geometric patterns, no bedazzling, no color-coordination with clothing. No cuticle scissors or sticks, no metal files or emery boards. No polish. Oh, my nails are not raggedy. Not chewed to the quick. But they are nothing to brag about, unless you count that one big ol' honkin' fingernail. Not that I'm braggin'.

It doesn't signify anything special, my MegaNail. It was not planned. My nail-trimming routine is somewhat similar to my haircutting routine. Not the process of trusting my tresses to a true professional, of course. You should remember that does not happen. I have the Butcher of Seville, after all. But in those in-between times when I feel a need to trim, I just do it. Sometimes, even in the light, and with a mirror. It's somewhat the same for my fingernails. Only I don't have a Butcher of the Nails. I am always carving away at them as the need arises. Which means that sometimes, all ten are not on the same page.

Perhaps one fingernail has been injured in a threading accident. Or sliced inadvertently in a sink full of dishes. Or bent backwards in a rush to open the refrigerator for a feeding frenzy. Which would necessitate immediate trimming. So when the other nine are ready, this one is not. Maybe I want to let it grow so it can once again become part of the regular trimming routine. Maybe I revel in the existence of one good scratcher. But I draw the line at referring to him as Ol' Scratch.

All people are not so enamored of my enormous nail as I. Just a few minutes ago, Genius commanded, "Eew! Do something about that nail!" Funny how he waited until after I had folded his mayoral-campaign dress shirt suitable for packing for his upcoming eight-day trip to Missouri Boys' State.

Hopefully, nobody notices MegaNail when I am out in public. I don't want to be mistaken for a cocaine snorter. Imagine my surprise when those savvy city co-workers of mine at the South St. Louis unemployment office explained the long pinky-nail phenomenon. Who knew it was for scooping coke? Not me. Surely they weren't just snipe-hunting with me. I bought their explanation for claimants in leather jackets on hot days, too. That they were packing. Not for a trip. And not in the manner of oversize reproductive equipment. Nope. Those dudes had a gun in the armpit. That's why they preferred to sweat rather than remove the jacket.

MegaNail is never going to be featured in the Guinness Book of World Records. I'm not planning for him to spiral like a pig's tail until I have to hang him out the passenger window while driving. He's fast approaching the limit of his usefulness. Once he starts affecting my keyboard performance, he's gone.

It's hard to say goodbye.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Which Came Intermediately, the Chicken or the Egg?

We're having a bit of a debate here at the ol' Backroads homestead.

The Pony gathers eggs from our free-range chickens every evening. They are not so much free-range chickens as chickens who fly out of the pen because Hick built it out of two dog run fences hooked together, with no ceiling. And since he didn't clip their wings and they come and go at will, he leaves the door open. Most of the hens will lay in the laying boxes inside the chicken coop. But a few of them squat and let one fly wherever the mood strikes them. I suppose we are fortunate that they don't roam the contiguous twenty acres, but confine their movements to the front and back yard.

Since school was out, we have hatched twenty-one chicks. Okay, a couple of broody hens get the credit. Hick catches one sitting, and stuffs a couple of days worth of eggs under her. Sixteen of these chicks have survived. Now they are growing up. To me, the oldest group appears about half grown. They have that awkward, gangly, teenage look about them. Another four are kindergarten size.

Here's the issue. For the last two weeks, The Pony has twice picked up a tiny egg from the nest where most of the hens lay. Here's a photo taken by Genius the family photographer.

To be fair, this terrible picture was taken by my phone, and not his exorbitantly expensive camera. But that does not justify the poor composition. I expect the eggs in my blog-worthy photos to be...AHEM...egg shaped. So I asked Hick to snap a more flattering picture of his hen fruit. Which resulted in this image from his BBQing triangle on the back porch rail.

You will notice the regular aqua chicken egg from our Ameraucana hens on the left. And a whitish egg from one of our banty hens in the middle. It's the tiny brown egg on the right that mystifies us. Or perhaps I should say mystifies ME. Because Hick says it's a regular egg from one of our young hens. I beg to differ.

According to Hick, the egg is small because the chicken is small. And as the little hen gets older, the eggs will get bigger. PUH LEASE! I have never heard such nonsense in my life! I don't profess to be a fowl maven. But if this is the case, why have we never seen this phenomenon even once over the past three years of harvesting our chicken eggs? Were the previous hens saving themselves until full maturity to lay their eggs? I think not. We've had leghorns laying white eggs, and silky-footed black hens laying brown eggs, and a banty here and there laying the small eggs. But never any tiny eggs. Unless you count those two times that Hick tried to pass off a leathery round reptile egg as belonging to his chicken harem.

Hick wanted to give the tiny egg to my mom when she dropped off The Pony yesterday afternoon. He said, "Tell your mom we've got something to help her cholesterol. Never mind that Mom's cholesterol is just fine, and Hick takes medication for his. Or that, perhaps, she would crack open this abomination and out would slither a snake. I voiced my opinion of this proposal.

"You are NOT giving that thing to my mom! You don't even know if it's a chicken egg!"

"It's a chicken egg. Stop being so dramatic."

"How do you know? Did you eat the other one?"

"No. But I cracked it open on the porch, and it looked like an egg."

Oh. Very well, then. Let's send it home with Mom to eat it. I don't think so. How many of you are well-versed in eggology? Do adolescent chickens lay little eggs that get bigger as the hen gets bigger? And if so, why is this the first time we've ever seen such a thing?

My inquiring mind needs to know. So I can push the point with Hick, or shut up and forget about it if he's right.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Very Bad Sign

We are having an issue here in Backroads. None of those face-eating, lung-on-the-street, vampire-biting problems of the urban areas. And by the way, mainstream media, stop trying to make the zombie thing happen. You are as sad as Bad Girl Gretchen Wieners trying to make "fetch" happen. It ain't gonna.

No, the issue here in Backroads is not bloody body parts. It is a matter of road signs.

The first problem on my radar was the stop sign at the end of our blacktop county road, right where it abuts the lettered county highway. For many months, there has been daylight showing through our sign. Bullet holes. That in itself is not significant. Firearms are common in this neck of the woods. The part that concerns me is the direction of that bent metal blown out by the bullets. The shooter has to be situated in a straight line, shooting across a little curve, towards that lettered highway. Trees and a rock bluff block the shooter's view. He could be firing right into a moving vehicle. Not smart, state property vandalizer!

We were up to six bullet holes in our stop sign. But this morning, it was completely gone. Vanished! A metal pole holding nothing. A stick without its lollipop. I, myself, have the common sense to stop and look before pulling out into traffic. But you can bet there's an idiot missing from some village who will not stop just so he can say in the event of an accident, "But there was no stop sign. I didn't break any laws. In fact, I think the state should pay me for the rest of my life because my pinky toe was ripped off in that fiery crash I caused with a school bus."

The second problem was an orange flexible BUMP sign placed before our long bridge over a river twenty feet below. Work was started on that bridge when school let out. The whole surface was scraped. Now it's groovy. Slippery when wet. Little traction. Still waiting for a re-surfacing. The BUMP sign warns folks that they are going to be jarred as they drive onto the bridge. Or not. Because some wacky prankster put that sign on the other side of the road Sunday night. So Monday morning, I was warned that on my way into town, I was going to feel a BUMP. But I knew better. The BUMP had been returned to its rightful place this morning.

And the third problem was, again, a stop sign. This one was on a little blacktop island between a McDonald's, a Walmart drive, and a road in front of a mini mall. Somebody rammed that one good. Because this morning, the metal pole was down, still imbedded in the blacktop triangle, which looked like a mass of turned-up tree roots. And the stop sign itself was completely gone. Vanished! I'm sensing a pattern here with the stop signs.

Is somebody tired of shooting at Styrofoam deer? Not enough gas money to drive to where the stop signs are? Some kind of freaky hayseed gang initiation? Years ago, there was a problem with flags. They kept disappearing. Then police made a connection to young men stealing them for some manner of advertising their sexual prowess. Old Glory!

Climb into your handbaskets, people. But be sure to look both ways before proceeding to not-heaven.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

It's a Hot Heat

I am lucky to be here today, sharing my tale of woe. I almost expired from fried brain syndrome on Sunday. And I'm not talking about global warming.

You'd have thought I was a prospector, setting out across the Arizona desert with my pack mule to lay in supplies, braving the 120-degree heat in order to obtain food. But no. I was a modern-day housewife, merely grocery shopping at an establishment that I refer to elsewhere as the idle-hands workshop of the kingpin of the blazing underworld. Even now, the thought of the ill-fated trip brings perspiration to my pores.

You would think, would you not, that upon entering the whooshing automatic doors of a large retail outlet on a sunny day in June, you would notice a difference between the 87-degree outside temperature, and the climate-controlled inner atmosphere? Au contraire. There was no such distinction. That, alone, should have signaled me to abort the mission until a more opportune time. But time was of the essence. I needed my trusty assistant, who would not be available on weekdays. And our earlier decision to cool our heels in the movie theater had delayed our sortie until 4:00. It was now or never. Or at least until next weekend.

It didn't take long before this lady was glowing all over the place. Truth be told, I was sweating like a pig. If pigs sweated. Because I assume they would do so in copious amounts. My tresses were soon dripping wet. I could have sold Gatorade by the keg, had I been cast on the spot in a commercial. Buckets of underboob sweat poured down my torso and legs. I'm surprised nobody needed rescue from those salty rapids flowing off my feet. Bass Pro Shop in Springfield, Missouri, could take a lesson on indoor in-floor streams just by observing my emissions.

I had a thought of stripping down to a thong in an effort to diffuse my body heat. The only thing that stopped me was the fact that I wasn't wearing a thong. Too bad. Because I was going to take my be-thonged body straight to one of those free-standing freezers and hop in to cool down. To avoid a fever seizure. The Blazin' Chunks bin would have been good. I like chicken. And while regulating my body temperature, I was planning to remedy my near-disastrous dehydration situation with a Capri Sun IV. So simple, really. To impale the blue vein of my front-elbow with the pointy end of that hard plastic straw, and jab the blunt end into the foil pouch.

Dang! I was HOT! A lady of the evening, a master craftswoman of the world's oldest profession, visiting a house of worship, could not have held a candle to the amount of perspiration exuded from me. That place really needs a cooling station. Short of piercing some two-liter soda bottles on the top shelf, and dancing in the multicolored spray, I'm not sure what other emergency measures I could have employed. Heat stroke was imminent. But fortune smiled upon me. Even Steven and I are on good terms. Only one person was ahead of me in line.

What a relief it was to finally exit, and feel the cool 87-degree breeze on my brow.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Uncalled For and Inappropriate

If you dropped in to read about the most scathingly brilliant idea I had yesterday, you will be sorely disappointed. This one might be better termed an everyday fairly average thought. Because, you see, I was saddled with Genius all day. Genius no longer in pain. Genius no longer on meds. An intractable version of medicated Genius. Which means I was his personal activities director, like Julie McCoy on the Love Boat.

Of course, the activities cannot start until Genius decides he has garnered the maximum hourage of beauty sleep. So at 9:00 a.m., my unofficial shift began. I had taken The Pony to summer school, turned in Genius's hours of tutoring for the A+ program to his counselor, raided my classroom cabinet for Hick's Father's Day gift, stopped to pick up my fake check stubs for the summer, gassed up my large SUV, shopped for soft foods for the delicate palate of Genius, popped in for a much-needed refill of 44 oz. Diet Coke, put away all of my purchases that Genius turned up his non-Nasonexed nose at, and called his oral surgeon to ask WHEN his stitches would dissolve. Yeah. I'm a one-woman U.S. Army. I do more before 9:00 a.m. than most people do all day.

Then the real Genius came out. He shoved a sheaf of papers from Missouri Boys' State under my nose. "Look! Look at my schedule! I'm going to be busy."

"Yes, you are. That's nice. I can't really read that fine print without my glasses."

"Where are they? I'll get them for you."

"Right here on the table."

"Well. Put them on, then! So you can read it."

"That's a lot of effort to pretend I'm interested."

"C'mon! Read it!"

"Okay. Uh huh. They've got you scheduled up to 10:30 at night. And you get up at 6:00."

"I don't know when I'll have time to shower."

"Yeah. That's not listed. Probably during the morning forty-five minute clean-up time. Do you know what city you're in yet?"

"No. Let's look it up on your laptop."

"Let's not." I raced him to my laptop. Possession and all that.

"Oh, c'mon. Hey! It's really hard to type from the side."

"Too bad. I'm not moving."

"Boone. I'm in Boone. Let's see where other people I know are. Hey! After looking up all those schools, I didn't see one other person in Boone. I'll run for Mayor. And win!

"Don't be so sure. You can't vote for yourself, because that's not ethical. So you will be defeated by NOBODY. Loser."

"Stop doing that!"

"What? This? Rubbing my knee? It makes that knee feel better."

"I can't stand that noise. I'm done." Genius plopped himself down on the short couch. "Can I take two regular ibuprofens? My jaw hurts, but not too bad."

"Why don't I cut one of those 800 milligram ones in half. It's the same amount as two regulars. But it might work faster without that hard candy coating."

"Okay. Get it now."

"But I'm not finished rubbing my knee!" I stood up and walked away from the front window where the laptop sits. There are a couple of boards over there that could moonlight as creakers in a haunted house. "Hear that? I TOLD you my knee was hurt!"

"You'd think living in a house full of crazy people would be fun. But it's actually kind of annoying."

"Deal with it. Here. Here's your half pill."

"That was much harder to swallow than a whole one."

"Well, it didn't have that beveled edge all around."

"I could feel it clawing at my throat on the way down."

"I should have given you the Lorcet. it makes you easier to manage. It's already ten o'clock. I'm going downstairs to my computer. Don't bother me."

"Don't worry. I'm watching the Apple liveblog at noon. But I still have two hours to kill."

I escaped to my dark basement lair. Fired up my desktop. Opened my blog. Guess who appeared behind me and flipped on the light, in full Mayor-campaigning regalia.

"How does this look?"

"It's fine."

"Does this tie go with it?"

"Yes. It's fine. Goodbye."

"But doesn't it look good?"

"Yes! Leave me alone. You're sure not The Pony. I get NOTHING done when you're home with me."

"Stuff happens."

"YOU happen!"

"That was uncalled for and inappropriate."

"Yes. But so true!"

"Hey! Are you writing about me? Let me read it!"

"No. I have something else in mind for today."

"That's not happenin'. Do ME. I love the ones about me!"

"You're like a peacock. Always wanting to be admired. And hard to ignore because you're loud and screechy."

"Just hurry up and get that one done."

"I seem to have a problem getting ANYTHING done."

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Nothing to Read Here. Move Along.

I have been rushed for time. It's a good thing I put in a submission this morning, or it would not have been done today.

I frittered away my time with laundry. Took a shower. Hauled The Pony to see Prometheus, which was an hour there and back, two hours plus for the show, and thirty minutes for previews. We did our weekly shopping to the tune of another hour. Took thirty minutes to carry in and put stuff away. I made one meal for newly-toothless Genius, another for The Pony, warmed up some leftover BBQ (NOT a hot dog) for me, and tossed a big salad and a couple of eggrolls at Hick.

Then I sat down here at my computer with the most scathingly brilliant idea for a post. But I don't have time to see it through. Tomorrow, perhaps. When I only have to take care of Genius and his gaping gum-holes 24/7, and take The Pony to summer school and then go pick him up, and throw together a couple of meals.

Yeah. I'll think about it tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day. Or so I've heard.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Don't Bite Into Leann Rimes

Hick is spending the weekend as head BBQer at an ongoing fundraiser for Genius's Project Graduation. Don't gasp. He's not BBQing heads. He's in charge. But to hear him tell it, BBQed heads would sell better than the BBQed hot dogs.

I know why. Hick brought home a few leftovers last night. Have I mentioned what a good BBQer he is? That's his best quality, I think. His claim to fame. The reason we starry-eyed kids have maintained our union for so long. That, and his talent for cleaning up vomit and killing bugs. That seems somehow wrong. Talking about vomit and bugs in the same paragraph as Hick's BBQ. I have a penchant for digression.

Let's try that again. I know why the hot dogs were not selling. I saw them. They were smaller than Slim Jims. I don't know where one could find hot dogs so small. Not Vienna Sausages small. Vienna Sausages have way more girth than Hick's hot dogs. They're like those pitiful sheep that Rene Zellwegger as Ruby Thewes in Cold Mountain traded Nicole Kidman's piano for. She got ten sheep, because put together, they weren't no bigger than six proper sheep.

Well, if you were to lay down your hard-earned cash on the barrelhead for one of these BBQed hot dogs, you would return after eating it to initiate the great Hot Dog Eaters vs Hicks feud. Because it would take three of Hick's hot dogs to make one proper hot dog. If Hick used his mad BBQ skillz as a platform to run for political office, his opponent would call him all bun and no hot dog. Clara Peller herself would call from beyond the grave to ask, "Where's the DOG?"

That's how small Hick's BBQed hot dogs were. I don't know who was in charge of procuring the wieners, but they are of a different ilk than our family. We BBQ big honkin' hot dogs here at our house. Fat hot dogs. They need that no-nonsense Jillian Michaels as their personal trainer, to put them through a rigorous workout.

But the hot dogs that Hick BBQed looked like they were all worked out. Kind of like Leann Rimes. Nobody wants to bite into a BBQed hot dog and find Leann Rimes. You could cut your lip on her hip bones.

Don't bite into Leann Rimes. Avoid Hick's BBQed hot dogs like a customer who subscribes to Direct TV because he doesn't want to end up in a roadside ditch. Or attend his own funeral as a guy named Phil Shifley.

I don't subscribe to Direct TV. But I could write a commercial for them.

When your cable goes out, you get bored.
When you get bored, you look for something to do.
When you look for something to do, you find a rock swap where Hick is BBQing.
When you find a rock swap where Hick is BBQing, you eat a hot dog.
When you eat a hot dog, you cut your lip.
And when you cut your lip, you see that it was caused by a bite into Leann Rimes.
Don't bite into Leann Rimes.
Get rid of cable, and upgrade to Direct TV

See how simple that was? And to think, I'm giving it away for free.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Ooh, Ooh, Ooh, I'm on Fire

No, that's not Springsteen you hear. It's me. Val. And I'm not engulfed in trouser flames from being a liar, liar. The fact that I finished the second Hunger Games book, Catching Fire, on Wednesday night has nothing to do with it.

I'm on fire.

I'm in the groove. I've got the itch, and it's not something that needs scratching with a neighbor's spatula after the long-fingernailed coffee shop waitress breaks up with me.

I sat down to write a submission yesterday, and it was like a long-awaited spark in the dry tinder of a Survivor contestant's fire-making challenge. One idea led to another. Even a six-hour chair nap last night did not extinguish the flame. I went to actual bed at 4:00 a.m., and could not sleep. Perhaps it wasn't so much the ideas bouncing around in my noggin as the fact that I'd already had a full (for me) night's sleep in the recliner.

This morning I arose at 5:30, all fired up. I have another submission ready to go. It's all over but the proofreadin'. Now three more stories are licking at the straw stuffing of my brain. An out-of-control gambling bus, a crazed chipmunk, and a doorstop scandal are shoving the severed skeleton and the devil with no dress on to the back burner.

Is it hot in here, or is it just me?