Unbagging the Cats 1

Unbagging the Cats 1

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

At Least I Didn't See Miss Gulch on a Bicycle

My house was a-rockin' last night. So glad that none of you came a-knockin'. Because you might have been whirled away in the Wizard-of-Oz-class maelstrom that beset Backroads around 2:30 a.m.

I awoke in my trusty basement recliner, none the worse for wear after a 3.5 hour nap, to the sound of wind, thunder, rain, and unknown particles smashing into the front of the house. I'm glad the power did not go out, or I might have been disoriented. My TV went off. I suppose Dish Network will claim that their product does work in a tornado, and that we simply need to trim some limbs.

This morning, I expected to see some limbs down in the fields, and maybe some flappy roofs. But no. My route was relatively devoid of debris. Hick, however, had to backtrack. A whole tree blocked his Backroads back road. The local game warden, who lives in our area, had stopped traffic to deter accidents.

I do not like those dark storms. The sleepytime storms. I don't want to stay up all night waiting for my demise. Hick simply goes to bed as normal. As do the boys. But I'm the worry wart. I watch the chief meteorologists until the cows come home, enjoy a light supper, soak in a bubble bath, powder themselves, slip into flannel jammies, and hit the hay. Except for last night. I did not watch the forecast. Last I heard, we were getting thunderstorms after nine. And that was all.

So...I did not pack up my shelter necessities, those being cash, medication, and my flash drives. I did not have the metal door to the safe room propped open, ready to round up my men upstairs should doom appear on the horizon. We were sorely unprepared.

Which will not happen again this spring.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Behind the Scenes with the Kitchen Staph

Genius decided he was going to make himself some supper last night. That's because my cauldron of homemade chili was not good enough for his champagne wishes and caviar dreams. So he set about making himself a quesadilla. Funny. Politically incorrect Blogger does not recognize the spelling of quesadilla.

The poor boy was weak with hunger, having waited for me to finish working late and get home after five and show him where the bag of frozen fajita chicken was. He had looked everywhere, he said. Except the second shelf of the freezer, where it was visible from across the cutting block. He knew better than to ask me to make it for him. Remember, we have a short-temper-cook kind of kitchen.

First he twisted that bag six ways to Sunday. "Uh. Could you hand me some scissors? I can't get this open."

"You just pull on it. Pull both sides in the opposite direction."

"I just tried that. Didn't you see me? It won't come open. I have to cut it."

He butchered. "Oh. Look, it's resealable. Except it isn't. Look! It's pulled loose from the sides, still sealed."

"I wonder how that happened."

"I don't know. But it wasn't me."

I filled the sink to finish last night's dishes. Genius put some strips of chicken on a paper plate and microwaved them. While that was going on, he grabbed a jar of jalapenos off the counter and twisted open the lid.

"Are these supposed to have a film on top?"

"I don't know. Maybe. How long have they been there?"

"Since I used them last week."

"Have you ever heard of refrigerate after opening?"

"No. What's that supposed to mean?"

"Didn't you put them in the fridge after the first time you used them?"

"No. I put them back on the counter. Can I use them now?"

"Sure. Put them in the fridge after. Maybe I'll get some more NEXT SUNDAY when I go to the store."

The microwave buzzer went off. Genius grabbed his plate of chicken. "Ow! That's HOT! Ow! Ow! Ow!"

"What did you expect when you heated it?"

"Not for it to get that hot. Can you hand me the tortillas?"

"I'm kind of busy washing dishes and heating up my chili at the moment."

"And grab me that cooking spray, too."

"Who's cooking this meal, anyway?"

"I am. But you're in my way. Here. Now put it back."

"I'm going to need the lid. You know. That bright blue thing you just took off."

Genius reached into a  new bag of Taco Blend shredded cheese. "Do you have to do that? You should sprinkle it out on a plate, then pick it up. You've contaminated the whole bag."

"That's what I did last time, too." He put a wad of shredded cheese into his mouth and licked his fingers.

"Yuck. Remind me not to eat any of that. People have staph in their mouths. Now we've got staph cheese. It's probably butt cheese, too, the way kids wash their hands these days."

"Tastes fine to me."

"You're in my way. Give me my chili spoon. This stuff is still ice cold!"

"Just like your heart."

"You say it like there's something wrong with that."

"Where should I put this pan so nobody gets burned? In the water?"

"No. That would burn me. On the back burner."

"Doesn't that smell good? You've got to admit, I make a good quesadilla."

"Hand me that round pan. NO! Not the pizza pan. That's flat. I want the round pan."

"Mom! The pizza pan IS a round pan. What you wanted was the pot."

"It's a sauce pan. I didn't ask for a pizza pan."

"You should have asked for the pot."

"I'm so sure I'm going to say, 'Genius, hand me the pot.' "

"Heh, heh. That's what you all said back in the hippie days when you were in school. Give me the pot."

Sometimes, I find the work environment to be more restful.

Monday, February 27, 2012

If You Want Something Done Right...

There I sat last night, watching The Amazing Race and Celebrity Apprentice, secure in my knowledge that my latest masterpiece had been automatically scheduled to post at 6:38 p.m. So secure, in fact, that I contemplated watching The Muffin Tops episode of Seinfeld at 10:30. Lucky for my faithful readers, nature called. On my way out of my NASCAR bathroom, I stepped next door to my basement office to check on all things bloggish.

Imagine my surprise when I saw that my Saturday post was showing!

Just when I tried the Edit Post feature to check on this Blogger faux pas, my internet disconnected. I know that, because the hateful yellow triangle showed up on my bottom toolbar. Or whatever the technical name is for that thing. Perhaps you do not understand the enormity of this calamity. It was 10:30 p.m. Did I know where my children were? Indeed. Because I'm that parent. The one all up in my children's business. The one who uses them to do my legwork. The Pony was snoozing away on his SpongeBob pillow, and Genius was just beginning his 45-minute shower. The big kid, Hick, had retired for the evening as well.

That meant I had to climb the stairs and reconnect for myself!!!

That's because in our neck of Backroads, we can't get cable. We can't get HughesNet. We can't use an AT & T connect card. We must use Sprint. On a little gadget hooked up to my laptop in the front picture window facing west. I'm surprised we don't need a set of rabbit ears wrapped in tinfoil. Genius has us all set up on some kind of hub dealybobber with wireless, so all our internet runs off the upstairs laptop connection. Well, except when the boys use their truly unlimited Sprint phone data plan, which is separate from the dealybobber plan.

So...I hiked up Mount Killamykneeso and connected. But I noticed an unappealing odor of chicken and broccoli left over from supper, so I had to light an aromatic candle on the stove top and then notify Genius in the shower not to let his flowing tresses dangle over it when taking his allergy medicine. Then I rinsed a few leftover dishes and stacked them beside the sink, because this dishwasher doesn't run at 10:30 at night.

After a successful descent back to my base camp, I deduced that Blogger had done me wrong. My masterpiece was cooling its heels in scheduled limbo, even though it advertised the posting time of 6:38 p.m. I put the kibosh on that forthwith. Serves me right for finishing it early in the late afternoon, but putting off posting in case I had a scathingly brilliant idea to add before my TV shows started.

Dang. This blogging is getting to be too much like work.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Delving Deeper into Val

Don't worry. It's not what you think.

Stephen, of Chubby Chatterbox fame, has proffered me a Versatile Blogger award. I already have one. And a while back, I do believe that Labbie, of The Adventures of Garrett Squared, also extended such an honor my way. I am very grateful, yet I don't want to appear greedy. So I'm going to give everyone a more in-depth look into Val's trunk of secrets, without putting that award on my mantle or nominating others.


1 - When my first serious boyfriend gave me my first french kiss...I laughed in his face and ran into my house.

2 - I have lived in some real hovels while making my way in this world. And have not had the good sense to be embarrassed about them. They include, but may not be limited to, the following: a) an apartment over the garage of some backwoodsy trailer park owners, adjacent to the end of their house; b) a second-floor apartment in an old railroad hotel, furnished, about ten feet from the tracks, which vibrated every time the train rushed past; c) a one-bedroom shack with a slanted bathroom and a gas furnace that WHOOSHED like the house was exploding every time it kicked on; d) a three-bedroom house with a bathtub leak that sported a mushroom growing up through the shag carpet.

3 - Heights and the feeling of being trapped are a couple of my main phobias. Which may stem from the time I climbed the big slide at the local swimming pool and decided I didn't want to go down, but the twenty-or-so kids lined up behind me down the ladder and beyond kind of insisted. That's the first memory I have of those fears.

4 - I used to be addicted to the soap operas General Hospital and One Life to Live. The summer our TV burned out, I made my mom drive us to grandma's house so we could watch. And I persuaded my dad that it was time to buy a new color TV, rather than watching the small black-and-white on top of the non-working TV (yes, Jeff Foxworthy, I know what you're sayin'), because the Olympics would be much more impressive in color. But the real reason was that I wanted to see the blues of Luke's and Laura's eyes.

5 - I am fascinated by the time periods of the Civil War and the Middle Ages. I don't know why. I'm not much of a history buff. But stuff about ancient Greece and the building of the pyramids bores the pants off me. (Yes, I know the Greeks did not build the pyramids.)

6 - My sons were both born with no epidural or alternative pain-killing medication. Not by choice. That's one of the drawbacks to living in Backroads. If you make it to the hospital too late, because your husband wanted to take a shower and pack a bag first, you run the risk of being told, "By the time we call the anesthesiologist, and he drives back in, you will be too far dilated for him to do anything." Thank goodness for those required childbirth classes.

7 - I don't mean to brag, but my hometown was referred to by anybody not living within its city limits as Moosecock.

And there you have it. More about Val than you'll ever need to know. You can throw away your notes. I'm not giving a quiz. Not even bonus points on the final.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Nine Backroads Pleasures Denied to City Dwellers

Here are some things we can do here in Backroads that some of you probably can't enjoy.

1 - Let chickens roam the grounds and lay eggs wherever the urge strikes them.

2 - Drive on the wrong side of the road to miss the Great Chasm which has formed in the gravel.

3 - Toss garbage off the back deck, where it will disappear in a matter of hours.

4 - Traipse around the front porch and make trips to the garage while wearing only tighty-whiteys.

5 - Say, "The heck with the tighty-whiteys!" and soak in the hot tub buck naked. (not to be confused with George Costanza's alter ego)

6 - Watch the planets and stars appear at night, with no interference except the moon's light.

7 - Allow dogs to be dogs, and run free, to chase rabbits and squirrels, and stretch out so still in the grass to soak up the sun that great carrion-eating birds dive dangerously low to inspect them.

8 - Sit still on the porch and bask in the ambiance of nature's summer-evening symphony.

9 - Stop the car to wait for fifteen turkeys to cross in front of you.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Teachin' Confidential

Hang onto your collective hats. I'm about to let you in on some insider secrets. Science teacher secrets.

Secret Number One: Snakes have buttholes. Really. So there's no need to be puzzled, and even worry for a couple of years, about where the mouse goes after the snake eats it. Of course, most of the mouse is broken down by stomach acids and used for energy. But the parts that remain are eliminated in the same manner other animals, and even humans, get rid of their waste. No, it's not gonna sound JUST SO WRONG when you ask the question. I welcome any serious attempt to gain knowledge. While your peers might giggle and pretend you are some kind of backwards when you point out that, um, you've never seen a hole for a snake's poop to exit...you know that half of them also wanted to know the answer. All it means to me is that you have not been up close and personal with a lot of snakes. Which is probably a good thing, since you can't remember, "Red next to yellow, kill a fellow. Red next to black, a friend of Jack."

Secret Number Two: When the narrator of a reptile video says that a Jackson's chameleon has eyes that sit in little turrets, and that they can rotate 360 degrees, independently...he is NOT saying the chameleon has eyes that sit in little turds. Really. I appreciate you asking. Now I know why the first class giggled at that statement. "What's so funny about turrets?" I wondered. It's not like the pile of water turtles, where some young minds supposed that just because some were stacked on top of others, they were mating. No. Anybody who knows anything about mating knows that it doesn't happen when one turtle is at a right angle to another turtle. But laugh on with your bad selves. I'll make no comment to draw attention to your supposition. However, turrets are quite different from turds. A turret is a revolvable holding device. And a turd is...well...something that might come  out the butthole of a snake.

Secret Number Three: The words octopus's tentacle are not, in themselves, hysterically funny. And they are especially not funny when used in the same context as monkey's tail and elephant's trunk, as to which model was used to create a bendable robot arm. They are funny when mispronounced by a colleague at a middle school academic meet, for example, as, "An octopus has eight testicles..." That right there can get you years of enjoyment, throwing it up to her every few months when she least expects it. The more adult witnesses, the funnier it gets. But for now, a small titter is permitted, even when I carefully and distinctly pronounce it by the book.

Secret Number Four: You really can't beat teaching as a profession. Even your niggling little questions, like, "I don't mean this to be rude, but, um, did you always plan to be a teacher? Do you like being a teacher?" You're not raining on my parade, girly. You're not dousing the fire that burns within me, to spread knowledge to those of you thirsting for it, yearning for it, much like Charlene Frazier, office manager for Julia Sugarbaker.

Now remember, what we have here are secrets. Hold them close to your vest. Lock them up and throw away the key. Put them in your pipe and smoke them. But never, ever, let these cats out of the bag. They're insider knowledge.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

She Works Moderately For the Money

Sometimes, I fondly remember my days as a state employee. You know, a public servant. I could show up at 7:59 a.m., sign in, and go to my desk to pick up where I left off. That would be writing up statements of claimants and employers involved in unemployment claims, or calling numbers out of the crowd to file new claims, or sorting the office mail if it was my week to do so.

As if that was not paradise enough, I could count on a thirty-minute lunch outside or in the break room, or even walk a block down and buy twenty-five-cent Little Debbies at 7-Eleven. If the mood struck me, I could stretch out under the table, arms folded like an 1800s-era corpse, and catch three-and-a-half winks like my colleague, Cliff. But a lunch without watching claimants and claimants watching me was not all. I also had two fifteen-minute breaks per day! To gossip. To go get a Slurpee. To sit in the sun. To watch people smoke. To hear stories of how my buddy, Shirley, sat on a bee and had to have the office counselor inspect her butt for the stinger. Good times!

Never did I ever have to attend a game of basketball between our office supervisors and those of the Crestwood office. Nor did I have to watch out for hanky-panky amongst the staff at an unemployment service/job service prom. And I most certainly did not have to patrol outside with a whistle around my neck, lest one claimant decide to beat another claimant to a pulp...or even worse, follow him around, looking at him.

When the clock ticked 5:00 and the receptionist gave the all-clear, my working day was done! And nary a vocational thought danced in my head until I signed in the next morning. I did not have to plan what I was going to do each day. Or call a claimant's parent if he did not show up for his four-week, in-person interview. Or make sure nobody cut donuts on the parking lot. Or take away claimants' cell phones.

Granted, I was not feeling so mellow at 5:00 p.m. Christmas Eve. Or all day on Good Friday. But I did not begrudge myself June and July. I could still stay up late. Go fishing after work. Not be recognized if somebody twisted my arm to enter an unsavory establishment.

Once Genius was born, my rose-colored glasses fogged up. How unfair is it for a baby/toddler to be housed in daycare all the live-long day, five days a week, forty-nine days a year? Because Karma and Even Steven have my back, I had an opportunity to return to teaching the year The Pony reared his precious little head, when Genius was three. Teaching. With glorious chunks of summer interspersed with frantic late-night scrambling.

Life. It's all about the trade-offs, isn't it?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Nothing But a Dreamer

I blame it on the kink in my creativity. Because there was nowhere for the pressure to go, that oozing creativity overflowed on my bedpillow Monday night. I had been restless, due to the snuffles in my sinuses. I slept a couple of hours in the recliner. I watched TV. I went to bed and watched the red numbers on my digital clock change from one numeral to another. About forty-five minutes before get-up time Tuesday morning, I dozed off.

When I awoke, I had an entire novel in my head. Let the record show that I have no desire to write a novel. Especially one in the suspense genre. But the characters and plot were plain as day. No flaming globes of Sigmund for me. No sirree, Bob! Here's the gist of it.

Setting - a town in a western state such as Arizona, New Mexico, or Colorado, sprawling across a dry, desolate landscape. Specifically, a factory and a rooming house owned by the company.

Characters -
A broken-down factory worker with emotional baggage, perhaps alcoholism, plus or minus a broken heart.
A new-girl secretary who wants to do her job by the book.
A proud sanitation engineer, the kind of gal who wears her name stamped into the leather of her belt.
An old lady office worker who falls asleep on the job every day.
A gaggle of teenage Native American boys who live in the rooming house.
The town sheriff, who seems to know something below the surface.

Plot - factory workers are being slowly poisoned so the factory can be buried, and a nuclear reactor built on top of it so nobody will ever dig it up.

That little forty-five minute dream had everything but the names of the characters, save one. It even had the kitchen sink. BrokeDown was scraping eggs into it, rather than eat them, because Sheriff had brought them to his room at the boarding house. And had told him, "I forgot to bring you your ICE CREAM last night." Meaning that he had given it to every other factory worker, ice cream made from last night's snow, that fell after the factory had shut down early at 8:00 due to "routine testing" in which gas clouds were released. Gas clouds seen by BrokeDown as he high-tailed it to his old Cadillac in a hurry to get away from it. Gas clouds that panicked NewGirl so much that she left her new coat on her office chair, rather than go back to the gassy end of the factory to retrieve it.

Management didn't seem too vested in the workers. They left a memo on a strip of manila folder for Tina the sanitation engineer to carry out the old wooden Coke case. She was the only character with a name, perhaps because of the rest of the note, which said, "Tina is tIny." Just like that.

Why can't I have a dream with USEFUL information? Or one in which I am like Kathleen Turner as Joan Wilder, off on adventures where I inhale a bale of marijuana and chug some whiskey with Michael Douglas, shortly after slipping down a mud slide after Michael threw away my suitcase and chopped the heels off my shoes?

Alas, I AM like Joan Wilder. With the sniffles, in her apartment dotted with notes to buy tissues and toilet paper.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Outbreak. Contagion. Now This.

I seem to have contracted a virus in my nasal cavities.

I can't imagine the source, what with my religious use of Germ-X and avoidance of wheezy people. The mystery deepens, because it began late Sunday afternoon. From the time I arrived home on Friday evening, I did not venture from my dwelling until noon Sunday. Not even for a 44 oz. Diet Coke from the gas-station-chicken establishment. I went Diet Cokeless until Saturday evening, when I popped open a can to accompany some microwave popcorn while I watched the original Planet of the Apes with The Pony. It was one of his birthday gifts.

That means that I was not exposed to a school or community virus during the incubation period. My outing to Walmart at noon on Sunday was too close in time to the development of symptoms. Which included a bit of unwanted emission from the end opposite my Diet Cokehole, and a slight headache.

Typhoid Genius denies responsibility, though he awoke with a headache Saturday morning. A headache that was not too severe to eagerly accept my offer of a lone, pan-sized pancake from a box of Bisquick mix. He soaked it in syrup, consumed two-thirds, pronounced it delicious, and offered me a taste. Val is no fool. I opened the drawer for my own clean fork before taking a bite. Perhaps the sickness settled in the syrup.

Typhoid Hick denies responsibility, though I heard him hacking up half a lung on Saturday morning. We share a sleeping area, you know, and he straps on that breather that sprays his exhalations over my side of the bed like a fire boat spraying New York Harbor on the Fourth of July. In addition, he had a touch of the tail-end of the illness around 3:00 a.m. Sunday. I know, because the atomic-bomb-force winds of carbon dioxide stopped ruffling my hair momentarily as he made his exit.

This must be some Stephen King's Stand-like superbug that has infected me despite my best efforts to remain virus-free.

I call shenanigans!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Something to Fall Back On

Well. We meet again. I know what you're thinking. "I'm surprised you don't chuck it all and start your own think tank." Or maybe not. That's a line from one of my favorite movies.

If I can't get my groove back, perhaps I can start my own information desk. I think I can be an aged, backwoods kind of Siri. Not to step on the toes of Backroads Miz Manners, of course. But something for those more immediate, pressing questions. Like those asked of little old ladies who used to staff the library information desks before the internet put them out of business.

Don't think I'm not an authority on a wide range of subjects. Every day, tens of people come here to my blog, looking for wiener nosed monkeys, snot nosed monkeys, big fat nosed monkeys, doorknob safety, hairstyles for women over fifty, mrs brady with long hair, business lady haircut, 1970's blue and white kids winter shoes, shoes with toe holes, momo the monster, rick rack, and hormel spam. I think there's a niche out there itching for a spokeswoman.

Don't be a dreamcrusher. It could happen.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Backroads Miz Manners: Youth is the New Excuse

Dear Backroads Miz Manners,

Since when did parking lots cease to become places to park cars? This morning, as I attempted to find a spot in the lot of the local Walmart Supercenter, a young girl darted out in front of my large SUV. Her mother grabbed her hand, and proceeded to drag her in front of my two-thousand-pound vehicle as if they had the right-of-way. It just so happened that the place they were in a hurry to get to was the very parking place I was turning into. It was a prime location, right next to the cart return. Her husband and another man already stood in it. They had the good sense to back up against a pickup hood when they saw my signal. But mom and daughter strolled into the space, then turned and looked at me like I had two heads when the men told them to watch out.

THEN, they proceeded to inch over onto the side yellow line that marked the parking space. I was halfway in, thinking they were getting out of my way, but had to abort, lest I crush the toes of those dimwitted idiots. I removed my vehicle from temptation, and cruised to the food end of the store to a less desirable slot.

Was there a memo that I missed about pedestrians holding sway over drivers in a parking area?

Baffled in Backroads

Dear Baffled,

There was no memo. Today's adults under the age of thirty were born knowing that they are very special, and the world will bend over backwards to accommodate them. Cars will stop in their tracks rather than pulverize them. Planes will refuse to fly until they board. Teachers will "recalculate" grades if their offspring forget to turn in a major assignment. Likewise, a project that is completed without following the proper instructions will be graded over, once Mommy calls the teacher to report that it was HER fault, not little Fauntleroy's, because she could not find time to go to the store over those four weeks to buy paper or fabric or clay or paint or twigs or rocks or weeds or grasses, and the child should not be penalized, but should be graded AS IF he had followed all the rules the other kids followed who turned their work in on time, rather than having their sister build it of Legos the night after it was due.

Those lot squatters believed they were being perfectly reasonable. Because everyone but you, Baffled, understands that the middle of an awkward ballet of heavy machinery is the best place to chat up old friends. They allowed you space to do your thing. If a few toes were inadvertently amputated in the process, so be it. Your insurance would cover it, and they would be set for life. Especially if it was the youngster who lost use of her complete set of ten phalanges.

The sooner you understand that life is skewed in favor of the young, the less baffled you will be.

Backroads Miz Manners

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Homeliness of the Long-Winded Writer

At times, I get a kink in my creative tubing.

The most scathingly brilliant ideas form in my noggin, but can't find their way to my fingertips. I think them through thoroughly while washing dishes, hanging laundry, riding in the car, or nodding off to sleep. But when it comes time to type them up, they evade me like a deadbeat avoiding calls from creditors.

My ideas are like a strong-willed toddler trapped up inside a grabber machine. They can't get out without a major intervention from expert extractors, much anxiety is involved, tears are shed, and, like the toddler, they are not quite themselves when released.

These flashes of brilliance, like so many fat black waterbugs, crawl inside the roach motel of my cranium, but can never leave. I feel them skittering around attempting to check out, trying, trying, to no avail. They must be tossed out like yesterday's Caesar salad, once so crisp and flavorful, now limp and tasteless.

Writing is not pretty.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Neither a Borrower Nor a Breaker Be

The Thevictorian family is coping with a horrific loss. Genius broke the news to me last night around 8:30, when he returned home from an academic meet. He had been in good spirits when I left school, asking for more money. It was his third request of the day.

First, Genius needed two dollars for sausages. It's some kind of fundraiser the junior class is having for prom. Apparently, these sausages are selling like hotcakes. I imagine them to be an overpriced Slim Jim of sorts, a meaty tube that shoots grease into your mouth when you take the first of three chomps that will finish it off. I wouldn't know. Because I have never seen anyone actually selling them. It appears that all of the student salesmen are eating their own merchandise.

Second, Genius needed five dollars for the Sweetheart Dance. He is currently without a sweetheart, and would only have attended as official photographer for free. But he was recruited to be a king candidate due to circumstances beyond his control. I'm not saying my boy is a stud. That would be just creepy. He's everyman. Liked by most. He is representing National Honor Society. That's because they only had three guys, and one of them is the king candidate for the Bible club, and the other refused to be a possible king. It may or may not have had something to do with his girlfriend's wishes. But...the tickets are ten dollars, so I'm wondering if Genius was spending what money he had left from his allowance, and needed another five.

Third, Genius wanted money for food before the academic meet. The sponsor always orders pizza for the team. Genius said, "I need some money to chip in for pizza. She always asks. But you might as well not give it to me. Because I'll probably just keep it and not chip in. Nobody does, and we still get pizza." I gave him five dollars. That would buy him a whole pizza from Little Caesar's. He hugged me in front of all the academic team. Okay, so it's not like he hugged me in front of the basketball team, or the swing choir. But still. It's progress. I left him chatting with his cronies at a cafeteria table.

Have I strung you out long enough? Are you still here, waiting to find out the tragedy that has befallen us? After the pizza feast, Genius went to stand up, and knocked his new notebook off the table. Not a spiral notebook, nor a three-ring binder. The electronic kind of notebook that is all the rage these days. Genius loves him some newfangled gadgets. This one had been on his radar since before Christmas. I don't know the name, because I'm quite ignorant in these matters. He had pre-ordered in November. I gave him half of the money. It was supposed to be his major Christmas gift. Genius worked odd electronic jobs, and hauled a couple of loads of wood, and sold some scrap metal that he cleaned up for Hick. And he paid me the rest of the money. Then, the gadget didn't ship. In late January, Genius finally canceled the order. He spent about a week looking for another source, and found it. He anxiously awaited the arrival of his new baby. That's how he treated it. And he was always shoving it under my nose. "Look what it can do! I love it!" He took it to school to use in his classes. He spent every evening with it. It slept beside his bed on the nightstand.

Now it's dead. Six hundred dollars worth of dead. I will admit that I cried. Not for the gadget. For Genius. I broke the news to The Pony this morning. He gasped. His eyes welled up with tears. "But Genius loves his notebook. He would never do anything to hurt it. I feel bad for him."

As the morning wore on, I tried to think of a way to remedy the situation. It's not that we can't scrape up the money for another one. He had a hard enough time finding this one. My mom offered to loan him the money in exchange for a summer of lawnmowing. I told her that might cause problems with Hick and his belief that children need to learn responsibility. But seriously. The one thing Genius is responsible for is his electronic stable. After five years of saving and working to have the newest cell phone every couple of months when one came out, Genius never once lost or broke a phone. His various laptops and computers have taken ill and been revived by Dr. Genius. I can't see punishing him for a simple accident.

On the way to school, I floated an idea to The Pony, a well-known moneylender on the streets of Backroads. "Maybe, between me, and Grandma, and you, we could loan Genius the money and let him pay us back in installments."

"He doesn't have to pay me back, Mom. I'm fine with giving him the money."

Sorry. That makes me cry all over again.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Universe Continues to Conspire

The universe continues to conspire against Val Thevictorian.

The Pony and I stopped for gas after his academic team practice tonight. No chicken for me, though! It was a different gas station. Shortly upon leaving, which was a chore in itself because two chicks pulled in to the pump in front of me in their little foreign cars with the gas caps on the wrong side, completely blocking the exit, I encountered a near-death experience.

I was only a half-mile off the main thoroughfare. Still in civilization. I'd just passed apartments and houses and a rock factory and some railroad tracks. I rounded a blind curve and saw, in the opposite lane, a road grader. You know. The big, long, yellow machine with a belly blade and other hydraulically-operated accessories. And right beside it, IN MY LANE, fast approaching, was a Chevy half-ton and a tiny silver gas-sipper. The itty bitty car didn't bother me so much, because in a game of chicken, I would not even squawk. I would flatten that little deathtrap until it was a grease spot on the blacktop. I thought, for an instant, that my Tahoe could take the half-ton. But it was not a contest I was willing to enter.

I slammed on my anti-lock brakes and came to a dead stop. For once, nobody was riding my bumper in an effort to make me exceed the speed limit. You'd think the fools in the oncoming death torpedoes would have hung back. But no. This is Backroads. Folks have to rush home after work to slip into their poop-kickin' boots and toss back a cold one. If they're not already doing the second one behind the wheel.

You'd think the driver of the road grader might have applied his brakes. I know those things are equipped with them. Any sane person would have stopped so the half-ton and the toy could cut back into their lane quicker. But this is Backroads. I highly doubt he was keeping a constant speed so the cars in trouble could judge whether to back off. More than likely, he was pissed off that they couldn't wait a half-mile to make their moves. So he was teaching them a thing or two about messin' with a heavy equipment driver.

They shot back to their side just before slamming into my grill. I thought for a moment that the mini car might be bladed. But it was not to be. Since I was parked in the middle of my lane, I did not need both hands on the wheel, and made good use of some common hand gestures. No. Not like that. I am a lady. I simply threw up both hands in the universal signal for WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?

My vocal musings were PG-13. I had a young, impressionable Pony with me.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Straight From The Pony's Mouth

Today is The Pony's birthday.

I've got a kickin' Pony essay in me just trying to get out. Kind of like Thunderhead trying to get out of Flicka in the Mary O'Hara classic. It's my journey, not his. I don't want him to be embarrassed by it one day when he accidentally stumbles over it on the internet. So I don't know how fair it is to use his existence for my own selfish purposes. You know. Unlike all the blog posts I've written about him.

This afternoon, I bemoaned the fact that make-up work is driving me crazy. Make that craziER, as some might unkindly point out. I can't get caught up for grading absent work and homebound work and previous-day work because some kids like to relax during the guided practice time and take their assignments home.

The Pony said, "You're sinking into a miasma."

Never one to let a Pony moment go unobserved, I asked, "What exactly IS a miasma, anyway? Do you even know what that means? What kind of 8th-grade kid uses a word like that? 'Help! I need my inhaler! Miasma is acting up again!' Is it like that?" Though I said it with a terribly inauthentic Irish brogue. Just because.

That elicited a chuckle from The Pony. "I've always thought of it as a dark, swirling, vortex."

Yeah. That defines my situation. Precisely.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Sound of One Shoe Slapping

First, it was my eyesight. Who can forget my unfortunate Ming vase faux pas? In case your answer was, "Um. ME," please allow me to supply you with the concrete evidence.

Now, a paltry three days after my birthday, another sign of aging has reared its ugly head.

This morning I was watching the local news, gloating a bit, reveling in my SnowDayness, feeling not one whit of compassion for teachers in ritzy school districts outside of Backroads. You know. Those who had to attend school as usual today. The anchor man led into a story about MoDOT workers inspecting the roads last night. "MoDOT employees checked out the roads in flip-flops throughout the night-time hours."

What's this all about? Can MoDOT workers not afford proper footwear in winter months? I used to be a state employee. I know the salaries are not comparable to private industry. But as Al Mangelsdorf told me when I interviewed for the position, "We seem to have a holiday every time the sky is cloudy. Next week we're off for Columbus Day." Maybe those workers are willing to scrimp on snow boots in order to reap the benefits of twelve paid holidays, plus ten hours of sick leave and ten hours of vacation time every month. That's what we used to get, anyway, at the Missouri Division of Employment Security. But I could still afford footwear. Matching shoes, too! Not like our office counselor, Diana, who wore one brown shoe and one black shoe. But enough reminiscing.

Genius arose at 9:15. That's because he was rounding up his posse to go out to lunch at a local Mexican eatery. Isn't that what we all think about at 9:15 in the morning? "You're not going to believe this, but I swear that guy just said the MoDOT workers were out last night, inspecting the roads in flip-flops!" He gave me that pitying look reserved for old people who annoy him with their backwards ways. Mainly used for me and Hick.

So there I was, picturing those hardy MoDOTTies traipsing about the slushy streets in flip-flops, much like my old college friend, Lynne, who never wore any shoe besides blue Nike flip-flops, winter, spring, summer, fall. To each her own. Then the anchorman said it for the third time.

"MoDOT found few slick spots on the main roads." They were looking for slick spots! Not checking in flip-flops! That's a bit embarrassing. Genius even cracked a smile. I think he might have snorted. But that could have been some type of freaky, foreshadowing emission related to his upcoming $12.00 nacho feast.

I'm turning into Emily Litella.

Monday, February 13, 2012

You'd Think I Would Have More to Show for It

My record as a blogging snow-day meteorologist stands at 1-0. I nailed it. We were out today, and have already called off for Tuesday. A four-day weekend for one Val Thevictorian! And I didn't even have fancy-schmancy radar and analog data for fine-tuning my prediction.

Here's the way things went down. I arose at 4:50 a.m. and saw no sign of snow. That was okay. Because it wasn't supposed to get here until 9:00. So I turned on the TV to check out those other meteorologists, then set about making The Pony's lunch. I jumped in the shower and prepared myself for school. Monday is duty day, you know. No dilly-dallying on Monday mornings.

After a cursory cruise through the three local stations, I settled back in my recliner for a chair nap. All that sleeping every night simply wears me out. Earlier this year, I would have kept my eyes glued on the bottom of the screen, eagerly awaiting my reprieve. But I am jaded now. Jaded by the abduction of Old Man Winter. That old geezer must have been lured away by naughty La Nina.

Just before dropping my last eyelid for some shut-eye, I thought I saw one of the big three schools from the other end of the county. Pshaw! It was most likely wishful thinking. I drifted off to dreamland. Ten minutes later, the home phone rang. I startled awake. I knew it wasn't my mom with our 6:00 a.m. chatfest. The clock read 5:45. I answered, to hear the electronic stutter of our automated phone system proclaim that inclement weather was denying our students their free public education for the day. A few minutes later, the actual live-person phone-tree call came in on my cell. That meant that I had to crawl out from under my cozy comforter and look up the next number on the inside of my pantry door. You'd think someone so adroit at sailing the electronic-gadget seas would simply store that number in her cell phone. You'd think.

With the heavy lifting of my snow day duties complete, I sank back into the recliner, gave my mom a quick call, and caught another thirty minutes of sleep. The boys snoozed on. At 8:00, I woke them to say I was going to town for a Diet Coke from the gas station chicken store. No need to be snowed in without my giant cask of caffeine. I offered to pick up some breakfast. They both agreed. Though neither volunteered to ride along.

I gave Juno a thorough petting, then started for town. Halfway down the county road, snowflakes began to fall. Strange, compact snowflakes were they, floating down onto my car hood, where they bounced and lay like ice pellets. I made it back home in forty-five minutes with the grub and my beverage. Snow continued to spit throughout the morning.

At 1:00, Genius announced, "This snow day has been a bust! There is NOTHING on the ground. And what fell earlier has melted!" I shushed him forthwith. And by 3:45, he was dragging me upstairs to see the hamster-sized flakes falling at a rapid clip.

Hick drove his $1000 Caravan to work. He says it gets the best traction. Probably due to the studded snow tires, which cost more than the van. He made it within five miles of home before he was delayed by the local game warden's wife sideways on a hill. Thirty minutes later, his path was clear. Hick declared that we would not have school on Tuesday. The roads were that slick. Looks like he's got a little psychic in him, because at 6:00, I saw on Channel 2 that we had indeed called off for Tuesday. The two phone calls came shortly thereafter.

As for my day of sitting on my ample behind at home, rather than sitting on my ample behind at school...I submitted my Erma Bombeck entry. Yes. In true Val fashion, I waited until the day before the deadline. My entry is titled: A Jill of Two Trades. Of course I can't tell you what it's about. A lady reveals nothing, remember. Haven't we covered this before? The wisdom we learned from A League of Their Own?

If you'll excuse me, I need to draw up a list of tasks to pointedly ignore tomorrow. On my snow day.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Where There's a Snow, There's a Day

Whew! We got my little party in just before the solitary accumulating snow of The Non-Winter of 2011-12 deigned to arrive in Backroads!

Have you heard? Snow is on the way! Snow, snow, freezing rain, sleet, wonderful frozen precipitation which may trigger A SNOW DAY! Yes! You heard it here first. Val is predicting a SNOW DAY for her school tomorrow.

Hedging her bets as any savvy TV chief meteorologist is wont to do, Val's school forecast reads as follows:

A weather advisory is in effect for the entire Backroads area on Monday. Precipitation may arrive at 9:00 a.m., or around 3:00 p.m. The upper atmosphere is very dry, and must saturate before we will see snowfall. Which is not to say that there might not be flurries during the morning rush. I am following the track of this storm, and fine-tuning the forecast minute by minute. Some areas may see no snow at all, and some may see upwards of twelve feet. To be on the safe side, stick your head out the window. If you see flakes, it is snowing. That means 100 percent chance of snow.

Schools should be advised that they will be ridiculed if they call off before 8:00 a.m. based on this forecast alone. They should plan to bring all students to school as normal, then set about serving lunch near 9:00 a.m. That way, should they need to dismiss at the height of the storm, another day of the required 174 is on the books. This will prevent the surly attitudes of students and staff from rearing their ugly heads should they be sent home after arrival, all efforts for naught.

For all intents and purposes, the term SNOW DAY, as applied to this blog post, includes, but is not limited to, a day when school is canceled, a day when students are sent home early, or a day when school is called off while students and staff are in limbo during the transport to school.

There's a lilt in my step, a song in my heart, a late night in my immediate future, and the bee has flown my bonnet. WE MIGHT GET A SNOW DAY TOMORROW!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The First Annual Val Thevictorian Blogoversary/Birthday Party

Welcome, welcome! My blogoversary/birthday party is in full swing! Come right in. Too bad the weather has taken a winterly turn. I had planned for us to set a spell on the porch, perhaps whittle a corncob pipe as a craft activity, and then roam about the grounds.

Looks like you're just in the nick of time for some virtual Oreo cake. Oh, I didn't bake it on my birthday. This is one made for The Pony last year. I did mention that this is a virtual party, right? So the calories don't count!

Here's where we could have been a-whittlin'. It's a bit frosty out there now. The wind chill is 4 degrees.

To stay warm and cozy, we will head over to Hick's BARn. No, that's not a typo. Hick built a barn, but turned the top floor into a bar. He's crafty like that. Plus, I sometimes suspect that he likes to escape the underside of my thumb. Belly up, folks. I'm sure Hick has a frosty brew, or a shot of Southern Comfort, or some leftover Ouzo from years ago when a friend went on a cruise to Greece. I regret to inform you, however, that the moonshine is long gone. And we won't be gettin' any more anytime soon, because Popcorn is dead. You'll only get that reference if you watch that show, Moonshiners.

In case you're a Jeff Foxworthy aficionado, that is, indeed, our working TV sitting on top of our nonworking TV. Nobody's complainin'. It's a BARn, for cryin' out loud! In case you're a teetotaler, you can rest your haunches in the Coca Cola booth. Hick is somewhat of a memorabilia collector.

Careful of the splinters. Hick did all this woodworking himself. And he's got even more shelves of stuff. So the beer buckets don't exactly go with the Coke motif...makes no nevermind to Hick. I may or may not have started the bucket collection with one or two Strassenfest buckets from my errant youth.


After a few rousing games of checkers, and possible consumption of adult beverages, we will head down to the creek to enjoy the solace of nature and Hick's designs. The newest additions to his shackytown are currently off limits. But the old standbys are fair game. Oh, and in case any of you need to use the facilities...

You're fresh out of luck. Because the wind blew the facilities over last spring. So looks like you'll have to hold it. Unless I can be persuaded to let you into the basement to utilize the NASCAR bathroom.

That countertop was custom painted by my cousin's wife. She's quite the airbrush artist. You probably can't see the detail, but the cabinet handles are Hot Wheels cars. Yes. We're shameless, card-carrying, redneck hillbillies. But on to the creek. Hop into the Scout, our first little about-the-grounds ride, before Hick graduated to a Mule.

Hang on tight! Because it's a steep, unpaved road down to the creek. First, we'll stop by the original A-frame, built by Hick before even the BARn or the house, as a place for him and the older boys to camp out on the land when we lived in town, in my $17,000 house. But that's a story for another time.

Look out for the wasp nest up under the overhang, there by that plexiglass window in the loft. We don't have epipens on the premises. Stand clear if you are prone to anaphylaxis. Next, we move on to the more modern log cabin. It's chock full of countrified things. Hick has since built an addition, a bedroom. I can see him living here one day. Perhaps sooner than he thinks.

You're lucky I left out the picture with Hick standing on the porch holding the six-foot snakeskin that he found inside. No need to set off a panic attack so far from civilization. Y'all might not come back. We will now retire to the BARn, level one, to have a dance contest. Don't worry about those pigs. They've been returned to their rightful owner.

Hick was all set to make sausage out of them one Sunday when he found them roaming the south ten. He and The Pony captured them and imprisoned them in the BARn. Hick just assumed they were wild boars, free for the taking. But again...that's another story.

All right, let's get this party started with a dance contest. Sioux, I think I see your hand up to go first. Everybody else, get your cameras ready.

I'd like to thank you all for my virtual gifts and snacks. I'm sure a great time will be had by all. But if you'll excuse me, I have a date with a trivia contest. Val is a vital link to success for her long-time team. Somebody put the dip in the BARn fridge when you're done, and be sure to lock up.

I'll catch you tomorrow.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Timing is Everything

Since I'm throwing myself a virtual party on Saturday for my birthday/blogoversary, Hick wanted to take me out to dinner tonight. Or to put it in Hick's words, "You wanna go to supper?" He had in mind a local catfish restaurant to which we both received a five-dollar coupon in the mail. That would be grand, except The Pony had math team practice until five o'clock. Yep. The Pony is a mathlete.

The original plan was for Hick to take me to the South County casino. It's name escapes me at the moment. We've only been there once, and I was not impressed. But it's the closest one to us. Again, that would have been grand, except The Pony had math practice until five. I floated the idea to my mom, she who often invites The Pony to spend the night, but it sunk like a lead balloon. With Genius out gallivanting with friends, taking one of their midst out to dinner because it's her birthday (never mind that it's MY birthday), we were left without a person to sit The Pony.

Five o'clock is not the witching hour out here in the sticks. But it means another thirty or forty minutes for us to drive home from school. Then an hour-plus drive to the city, or a half-hour to the restaurant. And by then, the Friday evening crowds are out. People start lining up for dinner here around four or four-thirty. Maybe it's shift work let-off time at the few remaining factories. Or maybe folks want to strap on the feedbag and get home before dark. I don't want to wait in line to eat my birthday dinner. Is that so wrong?

You might think The Pony is plenty old enough to stay home alone. But when you consider that we are fairly isolated here in Backroads, and The Pony can't drive, I am hesitant to leave him all by his lonesome. Besides, The Pony does not do well after dark. I can't say as I blame him, what with the sounds I hear in the area of his room every night. So leaving him until the wee hours to fret over phantom footsteps while I gambled the night away did not seem like a good idea.

Hick compromised by meeting The Pony and I at the local Chinese restaurant. Which was a reminder of why we haven't been there in a while.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Shenanigan-Filled Shindig is in Order

HEY! It's time for a party! A virtual party, to celebrate my one-year blogoversary AND my birthday. February 11. There is no truth to the rumor that I chose that date so I would always remember it. Nope. I wanted to give myself a gift. So I gave myself permission to seek out writerly things and put my little hobby out there for folks to see. That I had a totally different blog up and running since 2005 did not matter. It's different here at the unbagged cat house. Perhaps I should rephrase that...

The good news about my virtual party is that you're all invited! See? I'm not one of those cool kids who excludes the nose-picker and the mouth-breather and the eyeball-sniffer. Come one, come all. The only thing I ask is that you bring a covered dish for my virtual potluck. Is your imagination too poor to put a cover on your virtual dish? Not to worry. Any snack or beverage will do. Just tell me in the comments what you're bringing.

I must caution you: Don't be THAT guy. The guy who brings a loaf of day-old white bread from the outlet store. A marble rye is acceptable, as long as you don't take it with you when you leave. It matters not to me how you procure it. Chocolate babka, cinnamon babka, all babkas are equal in my eyes. I also enjoy a good nonfat yogurt, lobster bisque, calzones, muffin tops, and big salads. No eclairs off the top of the wastebasket, though.

My party will not be a sit-down, formal affair. No Veal Prince Orloff will be served. I can't pick and choose who amongst you must sit at the tiny table and share a plate. I don't have a maid named Consuela to put out a big spread. And there'll be no mutton, no Gramma Mimma's napkins, no pudding skin singles.

Be ready to be useful. A party does not just throw itself. I might need people to play music, put coats on the bed, sweep up, patrol the fish tank for tappers, keep glasses off my coffee table, and look out for double-dippers. We'll roll back the rug and have a dance contest to see who has the best thumb thing and little kicks. 

Because it's my birthday, it might be nice if you whipped up something out of nothing as a homemade gift. A statue of me out of pasta, perhaps. If you're not crafty, I'll gladly accept whatever you re-gifters have to offer. Label Baby Junior? I'm down with that. Cigar Store Indian? Why not, as long as you're not going to be one of those people who gives someone something and then takes it back. I don't expect anything extravagant like a massage chair, or a big-screen TV. A watch your Uncle Leo found in the trash bin will do. A cashmere sweater (without a red dot) would be lovely. But let's get one thing straight. If you give me an astronaut pen, I'm keeping it.

Let's all be on our best behavior. I wouldn't want to saw up my banisters just because somebody got her head caught between them. No peeping in the medicine cabinet. If you smell smoke, do not shove women and children out of your way. No drinking grape juice on the white couch.

See? That's not too many rules. We'll have a fabulous time. Please stop by (with a dish and a gift, of course) and help me celebrate my year of living plagiarously.

I'll start things off. I'm providing my world-famous Chex Mix, and gifting myself with a red Solo cup to use as a pencil-holder.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Waiting is the Darnedest Part

Perhaps I've mentioned Great Clips a time or two. Notably, with a reference to The Butcher of Seville. Now they've done it again. They've got an online check-in service. Customers can add their names to the salon wait list before they arrive. Yeah. That's what I said.

Am I wrong, or is that an appointment? You know, putting your name on a list to get a haircut. If I wanted to make an appointment, I'd go to a regular stylist and get a decent haircut. Not to The Butcher of Seville. The reason I go there, aside from the fact that my long-time stylist chucked it all to start her own catering business, is the convenience. I can drop in at the spur of the moment. You can bet that I won't take kindly to some usurper popping in and being shorn ahead of me. This is not a good business practice for Great Clips. Somebody's gonna get cut.

It reminds me of the people at the old unemployment office on Morganford, by the Bevo Mill. The claimants would come in, grab a number, and leave. We figured out they were going to a nearby bar, from which they would call every fifteen minutes to ask what number we were on. At least they showed up to get a number. They couldn't call in and get put on the list.

This is like those superpass people who get to jump line at amusement parks. I doubt that they are looked upon favorably by John Smith at position number 539, sweating his black sandal-socks off, trying to pacify his restless spawn with promises of Dippin' Dots as soon as they get off the ride.

How many people can a Great Clipper put on that check-in list? Suppose you are next in line, and Natalie Suleman strolls in with her fourteen children? Are you gonna take that sitting down? You'd better. Because if you get up, one of those kids is going to take your seat.

This is America, people! Fight for your right to wait in line. A real line.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

This Stuff I Know for Sure

* if I am backing into a parking space at Great Clips, because I have a coupon, and they don't look busy...a van will pull in closer, and a disheveled woman and two kids will climb out and beat me to the door

* a car that pulls out in front of me, with the gas-cap door hanging open, and leaves a two-car-length gap behind the truck in front of it at the stoplight, will undoubtedly make a left turn from the right lane, eschewing the center turn lane

* when I back out of the garage in a hurry, to pick up The Pony after his academic team practice on the day I don't go to school because of my lab appointment, a journey that takes thirty minutes, Juno will run into the garage and refuse to come out, necessitating my descent from the control center of my large SUV, to chase her and remove her in order to close the garage door

* if I go to bed late, and plan on catching twenty winks in the recliner the next morning while Hick takes his shower, before time to wake The Pony, the dogs will decide that some furry apocalypse is lurking at the edge of darkness, and bay at odd intervals while thumping against the front door

* a heavy-duty, canvas-duck dog toy purchased for Juno will last approximately twenty-three hours before wads of white stuffing start showing up in her dog house, on the porch, and in the front yard

* nobody around here likes sausage pizza except me, but when I leave two pieces in the fridge for lunch the next day, they will disappear, while the cheese and the pepperoni slices remain untouched

* after washing my copper-bottomed steel pan in my almond sink, I will have to wash the sink to remove the black stains, which would not have appeared in the stainless-steel sink I requested when building the house, that was rejected because it would "look cheap"

* I'm some freaky kind of Mensa-worthy brainiac, because I, alone, know how to take paper plates out of the cabinet and refill the wooden holder on the counter that proclaims Everyday China

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Imaginarium of Val the Victorian

I don't mean to be a reverse misogynist. That might not be the best term. A reverse misogynist could be a lover of women, and I wouldn't have any qualms about being one of those. In the platonic sense, of course. Not that there's anything wrong with that other way.

Because of the confusion, I googled hater of men. I'm not a hater of men, mind you. I don't mean to be one. But I found out the correct term is misandrist. Really. Would you have understood me if I said, "I don't mean to be a misandrist" in the beginning? Didn't think so.

I had an unsettling moment this afternoon while working in my classroom, waiting for The Pony to be done with his academic team practice across town. We had our monthly faculty meeting after school, and the moment it was over, folks cleared out of there like other folks rush into Walmart the moment the doors are opened on Black Friday. Like a reverse day-after-Thanksgiving sale.

I stopped by the teacher workroom to gather my mail. When I stepped out, both ends of the hall were as bare as Old Mother Hubbard's cupboard. I might have seen a tumbleweed roll by the west wing. I continued to my classroom, and noticed the closet door right next to it was open. The closet that is locked all the live-long day, that contains boxes of paper, file cabinets of ancient records, and a microfiche reader. I felt like I was a young Jamie Lee Curtis, three months after Halloween, with Michael Myers still on the loose. It was surreal. Like my eyes were a camera dollying along the smooth tile, panning left into the closet just before I turned at my door alcove.

A man sat just inside the closet.

He was not a big man, not wearing a Halloween mask, not menacing. But he was a stranger. I'm not one to cry "Wolf!" I don't accost a school board member wandering our halls and ask if he has a pass from the office. I don't lock my door if a book falls in another room and a kid thinks it's a gunshot. I don't think every man finds me the utmost in desirability, and wants to pick me up. Well, unless I'm shopping in Save A Lot.

I was uncomfortable. We were the only two people in the building. I did not know him from Adam. His name might have been Adam. Where did he come from? All of the faculty, support staff, and building administrator had been in the meeting with me. Who was this guy, and how did he get that locked door open?

He might have been somebody's husband. But if so, where was the somebody? I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation. I tied up some loose ends while sitting at my desk. Which I might not have mentioned is in the far corner, diagonal from the door, the only place the tech guy installed all of the wiring for my electronic necessities. I was a virtual sitting duck. Painted into a corner. Trapped like a rat. There's no way I could have outrun the guy. But I think I could have done some damage wielding a hard plastic chair.

All this was running in my subconscious while I worked, like a computer program running in the background. Then, it happened. Dude came into my room, and asked for some scissors. SCISSORS! The perfect murder weapon. Actually, that would be an icicle. But I'm sure scissors would suffice as long as he knew how to get rid of evidence. 

And I gave him the scissors!

Because I'm not a misandrist. Just a Nervous Nelly.

Dude brought back my scissors and thanked me. I never did look him in the eye. I'm sure the majority of women who are snatched while jogging or birdwatching or waiting for a bus or...I don't know...working after hours in their classroom...think a random dude is harmless. Until he snatches them.

I locked up my room and started the long walk down the hall to where I park at the end of the building. I resisted the urge to look over my shoulder. When I saw my car through those exit-only doors, my heart beat a little faster. There was a big white car parked directly beside my black SUV. The only two vehicles in the parking lot. That's what you'd do, right? All those spaces to choose from, and you'd take the one farthest from the unlocked entrance door. You'd park so that your driver's door was next to the lone car's driver's door, right? That's how normal people think. I'm sure.

Something is rotten in Backroads.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Rumors of My Filthiness Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

After giving a blood sample in the hospital lab on Thursday, I stopped by the gift shop on the way out to buy Hick some collectible chickens. My mom had asked to ride along with me, to get out of the house for a while. We passed the chickens around, debating on the markings (her) and the expressions painted on their faces (me). When you're buying chickens, you have to select the ones that are just right. I'm glad it was early in the morning, so people didn't see us standing in the display window, fingering chickens.

I decided on three proper chickens, and mom carried two of them to the counter for me. The cashier was one of three older ladies who volunteer there. She was a prim woman in a blue smock, very personable, the kind who has her hair done once a week at her beauty parlor. She commented on how cute the chickens were, and carefully preserved them in bubble wrap for the ride home. I paid her and handed Mom the bag. Because she likes to be useful, and baby me. I had a big red swatch of that red stretchy tape holding the gauze over my venous puncture site. So she thought me fragile, I suppose.

While I was putting the change back in my purse, I grabbed my mini bottle of Germ-X. Green, apple-scented Germ-X. "Before I go, I'm going to wash my hands. It's easier here than when I'm driving." The cashier nodded. As we walked through the self-opening door, out the front entrance of the hospital, I commented to Mom, "I hope she didn't think I was washing off her germs. It's just that I touched the chair arms in the lab, and sick people go in there, you know."

I'm not a germaphobe. But in the winter, after a visit to the hospital, or in my classroom, after touching the same stuff 120 students touch, I like a good cleanse a couple of times a day. But even I draw the line at being overly antiseptic. Take Bleachragapalooza, for instance.

The person who cleans my room loooooves her some bleach rag. She's very good at her job. Very efficient. At least once a week, everything gets a once-over with the bleach rag. I was fine with that. Until Tuesday. I arrived to find that the top of my Christmas gift of a faux-leather, light-blue, flip-top, notepad holder had been bleach-ragged. That's all well and good if the top lid is bereft of adornment. I'm sure a vinyl surface can be bleach-ragged without drawing my attention. But I had two mini post-it notes on there. Telling me which files I needed to gather information on Study Island. That place is so hard to navigate, I almost need Bear Grylls watching over me.

Do you know what happens to a mini post-it note written in pencil after a wild evening of Bleachragapalooza? He rolls up on himself, is what, and loses his memory. Anything written on him disappears. So there were two yellow curls of what could have, if they were dark brown, passed for chocolate curls on a baby-blue mini vinyl-frosting cake.

Am I so dirty that I need my post-its bleach-ragged? I know my laptop receives regular bleach-ragging. It is pristine. I'm not complaining. I only hope it's because that's part of the routine in all classrooms. Not because I am the Elaine Benes of the building, who might drag a keyboard across her butt to make a point.

Let the record show that I was once hired for a job in a junk store because I looked clean. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, baby!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A Pair of Love-Chickens for my Sweetie

Shh...can you keep a secret? Here's what I'm getting Hick for Valentine's Day:

Hick loves him some chickens. He's a collector. That's a nicer term than hoarder, right? Two are ceramic, and one is resin. I found them at the hospital gift shop when I went to the lab to leave some blood on Thursday. That place always has a fantastic chicken collection. I bypassed the pewter-looking flat hen and rooster, and the large, more lifelike black and white resin varieties. Hick has several of those large ones already, in better colors.

I'm sure he'll take these down to his rustic cabin by the creek. You know, as opposed to his modern, glass-and-steel cabin. Duh. I think a cabin is, by definition, rustic.

Did you know that, depending on how you pose them, these chickens can be best buddies, strutting along, sharing secrets, on top of the world, or...

...in the middle of an uncomfortable confrontation. One is, perhaps, pointing the wing at his partner, laying blame for an unthinkable atrocity. Someone is not getting out of this mess with feathers unruffled.

I hope Hick has as much fun with them as I did this evening while he was gone to an auction. They are now safely ensconced under The Pony's bed, inside a plastic bag, wound individually in separate sheets of bubble-wrap. It's best that they don't stick their necks out during the chomping of the hot wing dip during the Super Bowl.

Hick and I are not exactly lovebird material. We're more like love-chickens.

Friday, February 3, 2012

It's Hard Out There for a Wimp

From the same Val who brought you the outrageous case of the mail-order service clerk who tried to alter the chosen shipping method to save the customer money...comes the tale of the judgmental convenience store clerk.

I was waiting in line behind a large trucker-type at the Gas Station Chicken Store counter a few days ago. The purchase of said gas station chicken may or may not have been involved. I can only say that if it was, then Val became a graduate of the Unnecessarily Delayed Gratification Club that day. Against her will.

Trucker had good taste. He grabbed himself a 44 oz. foam cup and filled it to the brim with tasty carbonated brew. He then took a second cup and put the first cup inside. I do it all the time. Extra insulation. That beverage will remain refreshingly cold all the live-long day. The exception being that I have a spare cup or two at home, and double-cup there instead of inside the Gas Station Chicken Store.

The clerk looked at Trucker's cup rig. "You know I'm going to have to charge you extra for the cup." She said it like a true minimum-wage clairvoyant.

"Yeah. That's fine." Trucker had his money out, ready to pay.

"I'll have to ring it up as a cup of ice. That's eighty-nine cents."


"Do you want to get ice in it?"

"No. It's fine."

"Because I have to charge you for a second cup of ice."


"Are you sure you want the second cup?"

"I need it. My soda wobbles in my truck if I don't."

"All right, then. That's two twenty-eight."

The nerve of that quick-stop moralizer! It's not like the dude was counting out pennies. Or using an EBT card. Or looked like he slept under a nearby bridge. Stop fifth-guessing his motives. Sell him what he's buying. There was no turnip truck out front with a hunk of Trucker's hide on the pavement nearby. I saw no pumpkin frost on that country bumpkin. Nor did he have the smooth, soft skin that might signal that he was born yesterday. Trucker was a veritable rock. I'm glad he stood his ground.

Let the customer be right once in a while. Please.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Omnipotent Val

This is not just my narcissistic personality disorder talking. I have evidence that points to my all-powerful influence over people, places, and things. But first, lets put a screeching, stereo-needle-skipping halt to the flow, and delve into some backstory.

Hick showers every morning, dresses, pops two Eggo NutriGrain Blueberry Waffles into the toaster, goes out to feed the dogs, and returns to scoop up his on-the-go breakfast.

I, on the other hand, arise thirty minutes before Hick, prepare myself for public presentation, and recline under a comforter in front of the TV until time to wake up The Pony. It's a finely-choreographed ballet. Heh. I almost typed buffet. Freudian slip. Anyway, I am usually on my six o'clock phone call to my mom while Hick is waffling about the kitchen.

Tuesday, I told my mom to hold on. I hollered to Hick, "Do you smell something burning?"

"No. I'm making waffles."

"You don't smell that?"

"Something smells kind of burned. I thought I smelled it last night. I told Genius to check and see if anything was cooking, but he couldn't find anything."

"Well, that's something burning."

"I didn't do it."

"You're in there using the toaster. I thought you might know something about it."

"It might be from this bread sack laying by the toaster."

"Most people would make sure the toaster was clear."

"Well, I didn't put it there."

"Take it off."

"It's not really touching. It looks like a bread tie or plastic clip down in the toaster."

"Well, shake it out!"

"You always blame me for everything."

"Uh. I'm IN HERE under a comforter. YOU are the one using the toaster, where there is something burning."

"I TOLD you, I didn't do it!"

Hick stormed out in a huff. I told my mom how I had started a toaster fire while talking to her on the phone. I wanted to regale her with my mad skillz of telekinesis, rivaling those of Carrie White, she of the dirtypillows and pig blood conditioner, life of the prom...but I don't think Mom reads Stephen King.

It gets better. Even Steven popped in. The great karmic equalizer. But first, more backstory. I made a pot of chili on Sunday. Hick enjoys toast with his chili. He must have had some leftovers Monday evening, after I retired to my dark basement lair to blog away the hours.

When I checked on the toaster, I did not find anything inside. But the stale half-loaf of bread that I set on the counter to feed the chickens was down to only two heels. Rather than harvesting the fresh whole-grain from the bread cabinet, Hick had raided the chicken bread. There's nothing that makes Hick squeamish more than hairless baby mice and moldy bread. While I can vouch that the kitchen is mouse-free, I can't verify the status of the stale bread.

I'm laughing best.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Medicine Most Foul

I have a bee in my bonnet. And folks here in Backroads are quite fortunate that I didn't unleash that bee on them last night in one of the three local emergency rooms.

My mom had to go to the ER twice yesterday with a nosebleed. That's a no-no for septuagenarians on blood-thinners. She's fine now. But some of her patients-in-waiting need a good dose of medical etiquette. I've half a mind to notify Backroads Miz Manners.

It's cold and flu season, y'all. And it would stand to reason that a few ER waitees are infected with some kind of bug. Especially those who sit with a coat on backwards, bleary-eyed, looking like tap-tap-tapping on death's door would require entirely too much effort. So you would think that every time a new patient left the intake desk, the intake clerk would scrub up that electronic pen with some Germ-X or a baby wipe or, get this, some good old-fashioned hospital-grade C3H8O. That's rubbing alcohol for you non-science-teachers. Isopropyl to his family. But NO! Nary a thing was done to Mr. Electronic Pen between patients. Not that I could tell.

There was Mom, in her jeans and turtleneck, looking for all intents and purposes like the stand-in for Sissy Spacek during the prom scene in Carrie, dabbing at her drippy nostrils, no gloves. I put a stop to that forthwith. "Stop that! Here. Hold out your hand. You scrub with my purse Germ-X. Twice. Before you put your hand anywhere near your nose again." She is quite daughter-compliant.

Those workers didn't know if she harbored hepatitis or any other blood-borne disease. And the next person after her touched Mr. Electronic Pen in his soiled state. Not to mention the flu-sy who touched it before Mom. Criminy! Do we need Joseph Lister revolving in his grave?

But forewarned is forearmed. I always carry my trusty Germ-X. The public-health faux pas that put a wad in my panties last night was the total insouciance of the flu-sies in respect to airborne pathogen transmission. I observed three of them. One sat with his back against the wall, hoodie over his head, eyes closed, exhaling freely toward the center of the waiting room. I chose a seat diagonally opposite him, the greatest distance we could achieve.

Another one had been given a yellow gauze face-mask. He had it looped over his ears. It covered his mouth. But his gigantic honker was exposed. I could not tell if he was a mouth breather. I didn't see that fabric sucking in and out. And with the enormous proportions of his schnozzola, there was plenty of room for the virus to wend its way around any cloggage. We sat parallel to him, on the opposite end of the room.

The third flu-sy was totally ridiculous. He draped his gauze mask over his ears. And then under his chin. Nose and mouth were as bare as a newborn's butt. I suppose he was protecting us from saggy under-chin skin if he suddenly transformed into an old lady. Thank goodness, he left his parents waiting to hear his name called, and went out to sit in the car.

AND, the ER nurse practitioner (you didn't think we'd see a real doc, did you?), while washing her hands upon initial entry into the curtained inner sanctum to feel around on Mom's face, did not re-wash on subsequent re-entries after leaving to consult her attending.

The whole episode reminded me of the scene in the original John Wayne True Grit, where Gaspargo is going to remove a bullet from Labeouf's hand, and Mattie Ross (of near Dardanelle in Yell County) says, "Aren't you going to wash first? Don't you wash your hands before you eat?" And Gaspargo says, "I'm not going to eat his hand."

I wash my hands of this hospital.

Unfortunately, that's where I have to go tomorrow to have blood drawn in the lab.