Unbagging the Cats 1

Unbagging the Cats 1

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Plans: What Are They Good For?

My good intentions continue.

Genius is staying home today and tomorrow to cram for his SAT tests. He's taking the subject tests for Chemistry, Math 2, and Biology on Saturday. So the job of driving The Pony fell to me.

We stopped by Walmart to pick up some goodies for my mom's birthday. She's 79 today. Which means I only have until December to cram the word "septuagenarian" into my stories as often as I can.

I also had to stop and put air in my right rear tire, because my Tahoe told me it was four pounds low. Anybody remember the days when a car didn't nag you? And even though we have our own air compressor, and two able-bodied males who know how to use it to air up my tire...the last time this happened it took two weeks for them to inflate it. I couldn't get gas because The Pony wanted to get right to school. It seems that the first student there gets to put one of the big TVs in the cafeteria on the show he wants to watch. So gas had to wait for the return trip.

Of course, I had to drop off Mom's cake and cards and gift at her house. So we chatted a while. Then I remembered I had to go to the bank. Stopped for gas. And arrived home two hours after leaving to drop off The Pony.

I vowed that I was going to use that time for writing. VOWED, I tell you! I had from 9:00 until 1:00 to whip up the next War and Peace. Only I'm going to call mine, "War: What is it Good For?" But there was the added presence of Genius. Who argued about cleaning off the coffee table so he could study in the living room. Apparently, it is my fault the table was full of his stuff. I told him that I was going to leave him entirely alone, and would be in my office in case of death or dismemberment. Then I proceeded to wash the dishes from last night's supper.

Thirty minutes into his shunning, Genius appeared at my office door. Because he's going to Boys' State in June, and he needed to know the time of his mandatory meeting tonight. And then he had to look up other participants on their website, on MY computer. And he had to get his booklet and discuss the entire program with me. And plan on what items he needs to buy to last him through eight days with no laundry. Then he had to pick up The Pony's flash drive that was on my desk, and click it back and forth a couple of hundred times, and bump into my printer, and wipe dust off my at-home teacher textbook, and instruct me to give him his monthly allowance instead of applying it to his current debt with the Bank of Val as he had previously planned, and pretty much annoy me in general until I gave him money to go to town and get lunch.

Now it's 11:59. At least I don't have to comb my brain for a blog post today.

I still have grand plans for the next hour, and the time between picking up The Pony from his summer PE class at the local bowling alley at 1:30 and the cooking of the evening meal.

Grand plans.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Road to Publication is Paved with Good Intentions

Every day since school was out, I arise at the stroke of six and commence to readying my boys for summer school. Genius has been driving to the elementary to put in tutoring hours for the A Plus program. It's a scholarship for public colleges and universities. He's not sure he will be able to utilize such a scholarship, due to the colleges he is hoping to attend. However, his counselor says that many states have comparable programs which may mesh with the A Plus requirements. Since The Pony is getting his high school PE credit out of the way this summer, he hitches a ride to town with Genius.

That means my days are free. If, by free, we include daily household chores which get short shrift during the school year. But by noon or one o'clock, I am generally without duties until it's time to prepare supper. I could get stuff ready in the mornings, but it's more fun to watch reruns of Bernie Mac and Everybody Hates Chris. Because we all need a little more humor in our daily lives. That's my policy.

I really need to reel in the slack in my daily routine. The only thing I can do while watching TV is fold the laundry. Otherwise, I'm just killing time. And then I have to check up on the latest internet news, and read blogs, and type up two blog posts out of thin air, and then, well...I've lost all my drive to whip some submissions into shape.

Because it's much easier, you know, to take a recliner nap instead of watch TV. And easier to watch TV than read. And easier to read than type a blog post or two. And easier to pull a blog post out of my rear than sit on it without distractions and write a submission.

Recognizing the problem is the first step.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Jeopardy Does Not Recruit Here

I heard an incredible conversation last week in the gas station chicken check-out line. Incredible, because it's hard to believe a person could actually say something so not-smart.

You all know by now that I live on the outskirts of Backroads. We don't claim to be an enclave of Einsteins. MENSA is not beating down our door to put a museum in our midst. Forget about building a better mousetrap. Our kind of folks probably threw away the newly-invented wheel because, "That dang thing kept rolling away!"

For the past month, the road through town has been marked with skinny orange cones and signs proclaiming Road Work Ahead. I have never actually observed a work crew. But a new strip of concrete has been laid on the right side of the road. Its stark whiteness is quite a contrast to the blacktop of the regular road. This concrete strip is about three feet wide. It runs from an apartment complex, past a bar with beach volleyball, past a real estate office, past a package liquor store, to the stoplight. There, it ends. The total distance is about 150 feet.

A customer remarked to the cashier, "I wonder what they're building out there."

CASHIER: "I'm not sure."

CUSTOMER: "I heard it was supposed to be a center turn lane."

CASHIER: "Is that right?"

CUSTOMER: "Well, that's what I heard. But I don't see how. Because it's on the SIDE of the road!"

Yes. This is what our local think tank ponders when the members are not busy lounging on bridges, turning them into standing room only structures, or sidling along the girders like so many Flying Wallendas. Take away their bridges, and the roads become their new challenge. They would do well to consult a chicken on the proper way to get to the other side. But I fear they would sooner ask a possum.

Only in Backroads to people think center turn lanes are created by pouring concrete in the middle of a blacktop road to widen it. Like the highway department has a giant crowbar to spread that road apart. Or a zipper to undo. Or that they can't add pavement to the side of the road and repaint the center lines. They seem not to notice the matching white concrete strip on the other side of the road. The one put there one year ago when a new drug store was built.

It's called a sidewalk.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Four-Hour Rule

He's done it again.

Hick barbecued yesterday. Just for the family. He goes all out on the grilling. I must admit that his fare is tasty. Much better than that of my dear old dad that I was raised on, charred within an inch of its life, crusty leather pork steaks and hard, hockey-puck, tasteless hamburgers. I didn't know any better at the time. So Hick's skills were impressive. He was in high demand for our impromptu apartment-complex cookouts when we first met.

Because Hick believes his time tending the coals should be maximized, he never cooks just enough for one meal. We must lay in a doomsday-prepper-sized stash of grilled meat. So yesterday, he served up nine hot dogs, three pork steaks, a T-bone, two Porter Houses, and six hamburgers. I did my part by cooking up a potato/carrot/onion medley seasoned with Hidden Valley Ranch powder, Worcestershire Sauce, steak sauce, and fresh ground pepper. That was to keep him from using valuable space on his two Webers for heating his version, a foil-wrapped packet of sliced potatoes and carrots with a dab of butter on top. Let the record show that this dish usually yields only half the expected serving, due to the vegetables sticking to the foil.

Hick assured me that from lighting the coals until serving the meat, an interval of sixty to ninety minutes would pass. And I believed him! So I put my already diced and seasoned roasting pan of veggies in the oven at the same time Hick set his Kingsford ablaze. I could have slid that pan in the oven at any time. But I coordinated my part of the meal with his timetable.

Forty minutes later, Hick entered the kitchen with the meat. All of it. Of course my side dish was not ready. Unless you're one of those raw foods people. Which I doubt, if you are planning to eat barbecue. But the issue of microwaved vegetables is not the focus of my story.

As Hick entered the kitchen, and I was frantically deciding how to best entice my children to eat substandard veggies, I hear a THUNK!

Hick had dropped the large black metal roasting pan filled with all the meat. 

I looked at Hick over the counter that separated us. Hick looked at me. "Ahh...I only lost two hot dogs." He disappeared from sight as he bent over to pick up the spoils. I took him at his word. Just like with the ETA of the meat. Which I should have known was a mistake.

As I busied myself with microwaving potatoes and carrots and onions without their tasty sauce, Hick set the pan of meat on the cutting block and commenced to moving it all around. It was like he was tossing a salad with his hands. Like Clark Griswold's niece, Vicki, stirring the Kool-Aid with her arm up to the elbow in the pitcher. "Here's your two hamburgers."

Let the record show that I had asked for my hamburgers to be medium rare. They are so tasty that way. But I did not want them manhandled by the man who just picked up two hot dogs off the kitchen floor. The section right inside the door. "Will you please quit touching them?" Hick acted a bit put out.

I served up steaks and sub-par potatoes for the boys. Hick busied himself in another room, probably washing the dirt off his hands that he hadn't rubbed off on the meat. I used a spatula to dig around in the meat pile, looking for my hamburgers. I found one right away, on top, and slapped it on a bun. But I was unsure of the other one. I figured it must be there somewhere. Because Hick told me so.

We partook of our repast. Then went our separate ways. Hick busied himself with letting his goats feast on my lilac bush. The Pony and I headed for the basement to feed our electronic addictions. Genius no doubt worked on what he works on every night...trying to take over the world.

A couple hours later, I went to clean up the kitchen. There were leftover slices of tomato, onion, and pickle to be disposed of. Since Genius had taken out the trash without prompting, I did not want to put such refuse in the new trash bag. So I did what everybody down here in Backroads does, and flung my garbage off the back deck. Upon re-entering the kitchen, something caught my eye. It was leaning up against some form of briefcase or tool case that Hick had set against the base of the kitchen counter.

It was a plump, barbecued hamburger!

Dang! That man needs his eyes examined. This rivals the time he left a banana peel in the recliner, and lost half a donut under his chair in the pre-surgery room at Children's Hospital. Of course he was nowhere to be found. My hands were full. I passed it by for the moment, and resumed my galley cleanup. The errant medium-rare hamburger did not cross my mind until a couple hours later. I told Genius to inform his dad, who was still missing in action, to pick it up.

"You mean you couldn't even pick it up?" demanded the boy who steps over his own discarded wrappers on a daily basis.

"My hands were full. Then I forgot."

"I'll do it!" he responded, magnanimously.

This morning, I informed Hick of his barbecue faux pas. And he asked, "Did you pick it up and wash it off?"

Let that stuffed-to-the-gills record show that approximately four hours had elapsed between the time the hamburger hit the floor until I discovered it. There's no four-hour rule for floor food as far as I'm concerned.

But then again, according to Hick, I'M the one who thinks food has to be refrigerated or it will spoil.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Goose Diverges from the Gander

I saw him coming. Saw a flash of red through the leafy gaps in the trees. A red SUV, speeding down his gravel road, across his private bridge, onto the blacktop a scant twenty feet in front of me. I was so close that I saw the whites of his eyes through his open window as they widened in surprise, just before his vehicle cut me off.

I hit the anti-lock brakes. My foot had been hovering over the pedal since I saw his colors flash. Just in case.

He sped up. And put his left arm out the window, palm up. A supplicating gesture, much like the one Caesar the chimp used with his human movie daddy, James Franco, in Rise of Planet of the Apes, to ask permission to run amok in the giant redwoods. My road-darter used it to show submission. He knew I was in the right. He had wronged me. It was a sorry of sorts, at 30 mph.

I accepted his moving apology. Kept my distance. Did not shake my fist, throw up my hands, or curse the day he was conceived. Because he acknowledged his mistake.

Today I pulled out of my own gravel road onto the blacktop, about a hundred feet in front of a moving car. I did not extend my arm. I was not sorry.

I did not dare look in the mirror.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Tap, Tap. Is This Thing On?

Well. It's happened. I've turned into that crazy-lady blogger who can only post about people cutting her off in traffic, the hilarious things her offspring say, and her loving husband who treats her like a queen. Two out of three, anyway.

The realization hit me as I crossed my low-water bridge between three men who blocked both sides, fishing poles extended over the pavement, lines dropping into the water at the edge, forcing me to drive the gauntlet they deigned to leave between their road-hogging rumps. It was a dangerous narrowing of my traffic artery, making me susceptible to a corollary infarction.

And in my mind, I turned the situation into a poorly-seasoned dish to be served up for blog consumption.

Like a hack of a stand-up comic, I am relegated to my own special brand of airplane food, taxi driver, and hotel room jokes. With the summer upon me, I have no rants about working conditions or witty cafeteria-table repartee. I am intellectually stagnating in a goopy, bacteria-riddled mental pool of Backroads backwater.

I need a catalyst. A tooth-gnashing gator to explode from my cognitive quagmire. A block of blue ice to plummet from the friendly skies and punch a hole in my becalmed vessel. A skittery scorpion to scamper up the pants-leg of my semi-conscious psyche. A scintillating story to elicit gasps, screams, and hoots from my audience.

Yet here I sit. Growing fat(ter) and sassy on my summer vacation. Pining for the days when Hick was on the receiving end of a firearm twice in one week. Lamenting that nobody ever pays ME in gum.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Like Steam to My Ears

My mom and I hit the streets this morning to visit the bank, Goodwill, my savings & loan, Walmart, Arby's, and Sonic. Yep. We hit all the main attractions. Let the record show that I was depositing, donating, paymenting, picking up some shorts for Genius, eating lunch, and trying to buy a soda. In that order.

Mom even bought me a Buddy Poppy, as well as one for herself. Let the record also show that we did not use our Poppies for ulterior purposes. We did not cook and shoot heroin, nor lay down in our field of two Poppies and go to sleep, nor apply their seeds to muffins to eat and fail a drug test and scam a jar of urine off Helen Seinfeld so Mr. Peterman would let us go to Kenya to get ideas for knock-off sandals like those worn by the Massai.

No, Mom bought us each a Buddy Poppy because she views them like crucifixes for vampires. "I always buy one, and twist it onto my purse strap. Then wherever I go, I can point to it and say, 'I already donated. Got my Poppy right here.' "

She also sprung for lunch. I repaid her by refilling my soda cup with her beverage of choice as we left. So she could have two sodas to take home. Mountain Dew. To fortify herself for the long evening to come, since The Pony and Genius had plans to invade her happy home.

Sonic was my idea. Ever since the one between work and Backroads went out of business, I have had to settle for gas station soda. But the Arby's town had a Sonic. So I pulled in to order at the drive-thru. Which was a major mistake, what with the car in front of me taking six minutes to order. I almost left. But I wanted that Route 44 Cherry Diet Coke. When it was my turn, the speaker sputtered. It squealed. Yet I heard no human voice. I waited. The speaker waited. I said, "I wonder if someone is ready to take my order." The speaker did not respond. But then it buzzed at me. That was enough. I pulled out of line and settled for a gas station soda on down the road.

I am not trusting people who cannot figure out how to work a speaker with pushing a button to send soda into my cup. And that flavor pumpy thing, too. They are either too gadgetly-challenged to do that job, or they are TWWA. Teen Workers With Attitudes. Neither shall touch a beverage that I plan to imbibe.

Maybe they were just messing with me. Which means that inside Sonic, I was being thought of as Sasquatch. It reminded me of Yaphet Kotto in the original Alien, when Sigourney Weaver went to ask him about repairs to the ship, and he kept turning the steam valve so a loud hissing noise drowned out our Ellen Ripley, and he could make her keep repeating herself. "What? WHAT?"

So I told Mom, "I've had enough. I don't need a Sonic soda that bad." And I pulled out of line and left. I think I handled it remarkably well, considering that I had planned on getting that soda all week. Nobody is a winner when Val lets Soda Rage get the best of her.

In the Sonic line, everyone can hear you scream.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Curious Incident of the Water Cycle in the Evening

An interesting incident occurred Tuesday evening.

I was minding my own business, frittering time away in my dark basement lair, when Genius barged through the non-doored doorway. He was a bit agitated, carrying his fancy schmancy camera.

"You're not going to believe what just happened. I got up from my desk and went to the kitchen for a minute. When I came back, I saw THIS!"

"That's odd. I guess the window just fogged up. Can you wipe it off?"

"I don't know. I took the picture, then came down here. I don't want to go in there. I was only gone a minute, and that appeared!"

"Go see. It's probably condensation."

"Pony! You're coming upstairs with me!"

Of course he didn't tell The Pony what for. And because The Pony is rarely included in the goings-on of Genius, or invited to accompany him anywhere, he went. Eagerly. They returned shortly.

"It won't wipe off. I tried the inside, and I went out on the porch and tried the outside. It's not moving. It looks like it formed in the upper left corner of that frame. You know, it's all one big window glass. That wooden frame part is just pressed on the inside of the glass."

"Yeah. I know it's a fake frame. So it's in between the glass?"

"Uh huh. It's never done that before, in all the time we've lived here. It's creepy."

"You didn't breathe on it or anything?"

"No! I was just sitting there at my desk. It wasn't there when I was watching the sun set. Then I went to the kitchen, and it appeared!"

"I don't know what to tell you. I guess we'll see if it goes away."

The next morning, as the boys were going out the door to summer school, I asked if the fog was still there. The Pony said he didn't look, because Genius had his door closed. Genius had not checked, either.

"I put my shade down last night, and I was afraid to look this morning. You can go see."

"No. That's all right."

When he got home Wednesday at 3:30, Genius raised his shade. The fog was gone. It has not returned.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Washing of Warshene

Allow me to introduce you to my new odd acquaintance, Warshene.

Warshene was spied Tuesday morning, hanging around the USA Drug establishment where Val takes care of her prescription transactions.

First, a little background to set the stage. I had prepared a delicious pot roast with Klondike Rose potatoes, sweet baby carrots, and yellow onions for our Monday night supper. We had enough left for Tuesday night, and some to spare. I called my mom and offered her a hefty helping. She agreed to meet me midway to her home. We settled on the parking lot of USA Drug, since I was picking up prescriptions anyway.

I normally park in front of the store. When Mom meets me there, she parks in front, also. Yet when I tooled through the stop light, I did not see any cars parked in front. That means that three handicapped and three regular spaces were all empty. Mom was parked a row over, on the adjoining lot of The Dollar Tree. It did not take her long to explain why.

"See that girl? I was conly afraid to park over there. She's been walking back and forth. I'm not sure what she's doing. So I stayed away."

Oh. Conly is my mom's contraction for kind of. Maybe it's a hillbilly thing. Maybe it's a Missouri thing. I don't know anyone else who uses it, but Mom has all her life.

I sized up Warshene. She was a full-figured gal, probably late teens or early twenties. Not fat, but stout. She was wearing a tank top or tank bathing suit, maroon in color. Around her waist was what looked like a multi-colored sarong, with a v-slit on the left thigh that revealed a pair of black shorts with a thin white stripe. Perhaps not such remarkable garb for an outing here in Backroads. It was her accessory that had us head-scratching.

Warshene stood beside a five-gallon, cream-colored bucket of sudsy water. Since groups have been known to hold car-washing fundraisers at this location, I asked my mom, "So, they're having a car wash?"

"I don't think so. I've been here for about fifteen minutes, and she's the only one. She was here when I got here. And she's been washing HERSELF with that bucket of water." Note that my mom (and 99.9 percent of the folks in these parts) pronounce it warsh.

Well now. That's a bit out of the ordinary, even here in Backroads. There were no signs about a car wash. Only Warshene and her bucket. I gave mom her meal from my wheels. "I don't want to walk all the way across there with her looking at me. But I don't want to park over there, either."

"Oh, I don't think she's going to do anything."

"Yeah. It's not like she's going to wash me, I guess. I'll go around behind the car."

I pulled over to park in front of USA Drug. I got out my bank card. I opened the door, which blocked her view of me. Then I turned my back on Warshene and went behind my Tahoe instead of up on the sidewalk by Warshene to enter the front door. I could feel her eyes on me. Undressing me, perhaps, and sudsing me down, and then redressing me in a swimsuit and sarong. When I came out, I followed the same route. Once inside the car, I sensed her walking toward me. But I refused to look, and she stopped.

Dang! All I need is Nub in a Radio Flyer. There might be a story here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Not Exactly a Monster on an Airplane Wing

Even though calendar summer has yet to arrive, teacher summer is in full swing. That means Val is quickly running out of blog material. I am contemplating a series on the odd characters that inhabit Backroads. I've already introduced you to BRIDGEt, the low-water bridge squatter.

Today, we shall ruminate on the motivation of BRIDGEtte.

I don't think the two are related. I encountered them about a week apart, on different bridges. And BRIDGEtte was much shorter in the tooth than BRIDGEt. Not that I could see the teeth of either of them. I was not about to exit my Tahoe to take a look. You won't catch me with a raggedy finger-bandage like Gretl, whose finger got caught in Friedrich's teeth. No sirree, Bob! There's no Maria to prompt me into singing about my favorite things in order to take my mind off the pain. And even if there was a Maria, I find her remedy much less effective than generic Vicodin.

BRIDGEtte surprised me on a very rickety old metal bridge on the way to graduation. The setting sun highlighted her red polka-dot swimsuit top as I whizzed past her at 25 miles per hour. I barely got a glance. That's because I prefer to cross that bridge as I come to it, and not drive into the rusty-metal girder sides like so many vehicles before me, judging from the misshapen beams. It's a tight fit for two autos passing. I always try to see how much oncoming traffic there is, because the weight limit is 5000 pounds. And I don't like the thought of driving onto there with five or six other cars.

So you can imagine my surprise when I spied BRIDGEtte out of the corner of my right eye, just as I passed her. She was on the outside of the beams! Scooting her way toward the center of the river fifty feet below. That means, people, she was holding onto the support beams with her arms behind her back, stepping with her right leg, pulling her left leg to join it, on the outside edge of a metal I-beam. No sidewalk, no ropes, no right-of-way. Inching herself along.

I have not yet figured out what she was trying to do. The river is less than four feet deep. People swim down there all the time, off a sandbar that changes shape and location after each flash flood. But the water is never more than four feet deep during times of regular water level. No way would anybody in her right mind think she could dive from the bridge. There is no rope for swinging. No bungee activity. A suicidal BRIDGEtte would not have bothered with the swimsuit. It's not like she could have dropped something and was trying to retrieve it. She could walk on the roadway for that. People walk across that bridge in the traffic lane. And the sandbar swimmers park on the road at the end of the bridge, and hike down.

I have not seen BRIDGEtte since. There were no stories in the paper of missing teenage girls, nor of bridge-jumpers.

Perhaps I witnessed the birth of a new urban legend.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Fearing the Reaper

Hick has returned from his business trip to the east coast last week. He brought us a little surprise. A sickness that starts with fever and progresses to weakness, snuffling, whining, and coughing up chunks of vital lung tissue. I hope it's not Captain Trips.

I really don't feel like walking all the way to Denver. And besides. I've not been dreaming of a little grammy-lady rocking on her front porch. Nor have I been dreaming of a dark man. I suppose my soul is up for grabs.

Last night, I avoided bedtime like a toddler hopped up on birthday cake and Mountain Dew. When I forced myself to retire at 2:15 a.m., I could not fall asleep. The final straw that broke this damsel's back was when Hick rolled over and spewed his breather breath across my neck, over my right ear, and past my face. My face, with its attached nose and throat! Prime pathways for pathogens to follow while I snoozed the snooze of the unconscious. I tried to hold my breath, but I am not some freaky sort of David Blaine creature who can be buried in a coffin of water for days at a time without need of oxygen.

I forsook the bed and made Hick's big blue recliner my resting place. And in keeping with the infectious-disease protocols understood only by himself, Hick opened the bedroom door upon arising and HUFFED through the opening, right across my defenseless face. Deja vu.

This evening, I will be actively avoiding Typhoid Mary, Patient Zero, and The Original Swine Flu Boy all rolled into one and referred to around these parts simply as "Hick." Because I don't want any part of this pandemic he might be spreading.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Hillbilly in a Strange Land

I am now a lady of leisure. I am kicking up my heels. Feeling my oats. Throwing caution to the wind. Sucking the very marrow out of life. I finished The Hunger Games, and started Catching Fire. I am also over halfway through Girl Walks into a Bar, the memoir of SNL's Rachel Dratch. And tonight I started a third book, which shall remain nameless, because, after all, Val must remain an enigma. I said enigma, all you would-be Emily Litellas. ENIGMA.

Hick and Genius have forsaken Backroads this evening for the city. They are attending a gathering of Ivy League hopefuls at a hotel near the airport. The meeting concerns admissions and financial aid. Genius has his heart set on MIT, which is not one of the schools sending a representative. But he wants to learn the ropes. And after all, Harvard will be there, and it's just across the river from MIT. And one of Genius's friends was accepted there.

Before they left, Genius popped into my office to see if he was dressed appropriately. For a seventeen-year-old boy going to an informal information-gathering affair, he was. He had planned on wearing fashionable jeans and a tasteful polo shirt, but he scrapped the polo in favor of a black dress shirt. Which was fine. But I told him that he was a hillbilly boy from a rural enclave, and that might be his edge in gaining admission. Perhaps schools have a hillbilly quota to fill. To diversify their prep-school clientele.

I floated the idea that he dress like Cletus on The Simpsons. Or in a flannel shirt with sleeves cut off at the shoulders. Or in overalls, with no shirt. Perhaps borrow a droopy hound dog. And above all, whittle throughout the presentation.

Genius was not on board with my suggestion.

Maybe he should ask, "What kind of vittles do y'all serve in the dining hall?"

Saturday, May 19, 2012

What's Fair is Fair

Sigh. They're at it again. Those folks who insist on impeding my progress to and from town. The latest offender has taken over our low-water bridge on the blacktop county road. The connecting link to the lettered state route that runs through Backroads.

For any of you contemplating a recreational jaunt to my neck of the woods, please consider the rights of the natives. We do not welcome you with open arms. Our habitat is not one big free playground in which you may frolic at will. Streams cannot be owned. But the bridges spanning them are still subject to rules of the road. They are designed for vehicle traffic.


Seriously. That is just rude. And dangerous. And makes me want to write Backroads Miz Manners about your obvious lack of on-road etiquette. A concrete bridge with no sides, wide enough for one car only, in a dip between steep grades with poor visibility until the driver is nearly upon the bridge, is no place to wet your worm and sip a beverage. Seriously.

Some fool woman did just that last week. She put her red fold-up chair nearly in the middle of the bridge. She needed comfortable room for her feet, I suppose. And her beverage was too big for the chair-arm holder. So she set it on the bridge beside her. It was a 44 oz. Like Lou Grant helping himself to half of the Veal Prince Orloff at Mary's dinner party, BRIDGEt took up half the bridge. I barely squeezed my SUV by her.

Never mind that the water in that creek is now twelve inches deep, a far cry from the twelve feet it achieves in flood stage. No self-respecting fish is going to be caught dead in that clear water. Fish have eyes, you know. They can see you trying to snag them. Especially in a red camp chair. And what fun is it to fish when you can see the bottom? See that there is nary a fish in sight? BRIDGEt might as well have set up her rig over a mud puddle. A galvanized bucket. A kiddy wading pool. She would have the same chance of success.

I am organizing a crew of Backroadsians for a trip to the city. We plan to take naps on the highway on and off ramps at rush hour. Fair is fair.

Fight THIS

with THIS!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Cue the Tumbleweeds

At the end of every school year, I feel like I am about to abandon my mining claim in a lawless territory. Like I must protect myself from raiders and scavengers. I've stopped short of digging a pit and covering it with loose floor tiles. Or staging a ceiling-tile collapse to discourage invaders. And I'm pretty sure a wooden sign with Trespassers Will Be Shot on Sight would be frowned upon by the administration.

You can't feign surprise. Anybody who has ever worked in a school setting knows that nothing really belongs to you. Oh, you can put your name on each piece of equipment with a BIC Wite-Out Correction Pen. But that stuff scrapes off hard plastic after it dries. And if you plan to mark your furniture with masking tape emblazoned with your name, be ready to stick that label in a secret location. Because claim-jumpers feel no shame when it comes to de-taping your items and applying their own sticky brand.

Most scalawags aren't brazen enough to set foot on your actual claim. They wait until your room contents are pastured in the hall during floor-waxing season. It's like an educational-institution bazaar. Who can resist such shiny gewgaws, untethered, unpriced, with nobody to barter with concerning their worth?

Surely you don't believe that teachers report back to school early in August to ready their rooms for the upcoming year. They are trying to get the jump on the claim-jumpers. To assess what is missing, and mount a room-to-room search to get their stuff back. Possession is nine-tenths of the law, you know. If you can find your stuff, nobody is going to start mouthing about how the stuff they stole over the summer has disappeared.

Perhaps you think I'm exaggerating. That Val is up to her old shenanigans again. But I assure you, my fear is founded in fact. To date, I have returned to find the following items missing from my classroom over the years: a doorstop, a three-hole punch, a stapler, four student desks, five student chairs. a healthy matching desk swapped for a dilapidated non-matching desk, a teacher's rolling chair, a television, a SmartBoard, a projector that projects computer images and audiovisual materials. (Not just a regular reel-to-reel projector. Good gracious! This is not the Dark Ages. You might as well confuse it with a filmstrip projector or a mimeograph machine).

Some thieves are more subtle. They only take parts. A theft which may not be discovered until the school year is underway. For example, a cord that connects a VCR to a television. That happened to one of my buddies. She stamped her foot, shouted out the alleged perpetrator's name, and hot-footed it over to his room. She barged in, yanked the cord loose from his set-up, and absconded with the loot. He did not bat an eye. An easy conviction in the court of peer opinion. (Don't bother to mention the obsoleteness of VCRs and televisions. We're talking about a public school, here. And it IS pretty much the Dark Ages as far as library materials are concerned. Plenty of VHS media to be had, with only a few methods of playing them).

I'm going to be on edge all summer. I am pretty particular about my STUFF.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

How Do You Get To...

Today was our last day of school. We were gifted with an early dismissal. So I had thirty minutes to kill with my older students. One brought his guitar, and the others asked if he could play. Of course. Only two kids complained about this "lesson." That's got to be a record for this group.

While he was tickling the catguts, his cronies started shouting out songs for him to play. The intro for Sweet Home Alabama was first. As he said, "Any fool can play THAT one." He went on to some newer country songs. Then some Matchbox 20. Then a kid requested Johnny Cash. "I hate Johnny Cash. It's one of two intros. Either this. Or this." He played them both. He even tried to do it in the style of The Man in Black himself. "I don't know HOW he played like that. He must have had the longest arms in history."

Somebody asked for John Denver. "I don't even know who that is." They tried to explain, gave the example of a song in a movie that just happened to be Thank God I'm a Country Boy. Then he caught on. But he said, "You guys! You can't just yell out anything and think I can play it."

Which made me think of writing. I have knack for a certain styles. No matter how much anybody encourages me to try other genres...I'm no good at them. I could make the effort, but it would take years of practice.

And I'm just not sure I have the desire to get to Carnegie Hall.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Crossing the Toed Line

I have been inspired.

Today I saw the most amazing sight. It was a woman's big toe that was longer than my thumb. It was the greatest great toe ever! And it wasn't misshapen or hairy or yellow-nailed or in need of exfoliation with a good pumice stone. In fact, it had a tasteful coating of polish on the nail.

But that was one long toe!

Consider, perhaps, the thumbs of Sissy Hankshaw in Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. Only in toe form. I'm sure this Toe Ma'am will never use her great toes to get into half the things Sissy Hankshaw did with her thumbs. But somebody needs to take notice.

I normally try to avoid looking at feet. I abhor them. But these were just there, propped up, in plain sight. A quick glance, and my eye was snagged by that great toe. Toe Ma'am should wear an oven mitt over it, like George Costanza protecting his hand-model cash cows. I'm not even sure an oven mitt would fit such a long-appendaged foot.

Like Olive Oyl's neck and Popeye's forearms, Frankenstein's forehead and Eddie Munster's widow's peak...this great toe will come to mind when I hear Toe Ma'am's name.

Seriously. Little Jack Horner could have extracted a plum with it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Beside Myself

It is with heavy heart that I report the sullying of one of my Mother's Day gifts. This is why Val can't have nice things.

Genius gave me a little spiral notebook, 5" x 7", turquoise in color, with some fancy-schmancy modern-art-looking oval trees on the cover. And a label which I find questionable in his choice of gift for his tender, loving mother. Sasquatch: leave nothing but tracks. Like the top one in this picture I found by Googling.

Normally, I'm a saver. I keep things until I'm good and ready to use them. Just knowing that I have them is a comfort. It's like a gift all over again when I put them to use. Unfortunately, this tactic sometimes backfires.

Way back in the Middle Ages when Val was knee-high to a grasshopper, she was a member of her high school team that won 2nd Place in the Missouri State Volleyball Tournament. That was a big deal. Bigger, even, to most people, than Val's major accomplishment of attaining valedictorian status. A part of Val's uniform was a pair of knee-high tube socks with alternating bands of red and blue, the school colors. Each player had two pairs of such socks. Val chose to wear only one pair throughout the season. She was not one of those freaky people who never washed her socks and attributed victories to the funk. No, Val was saving her other pair. For her glory days. A reminder of the good feeling of that season of her life.

Imagine Val's disappointment when she took out her brand-new old team tube socks several years later, and found that the elastic had aged, and her socks were as floppy as those of Pistol Pete Maravich.

Recalling my troubling tube-sock faux pas, I grabbed my notebook this morning as I headed off to school. It's the last week, you know. I had some free time today between finals and incentive day. I filled four pages of my new notebook. It felt right. I love notebooks. This one even has a little pocket on the inside of the front cover. And it has double-wire spirals!

Tonight, I laid it on my butcher-block-pattern countertop corner desk, and commenced to typin'. I even put the lights on! And a few minutes ago, I took a brief break, and picked up my new notebook for admiration purposes.


It seems that my water cup had burped up a bubble as I poured a new cup of ice into it. And my notebook got scooted onto the puddle. Now he is warped, my turquoise Sasquatch! The last three of his eighty pages are damp. I'm hoping that he can recover.

Lucky I have three more of various designs.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Becalmed, But Not Forewarned

Whew! I've barely recovered from the longest public school band concert in recorded history. Quick! Call the Guinnesses. Or better yet, pour me a Guinness! Just joking there. Val is a teetolaler. But the length of that concert was no joke.

Hick, The Pony, and I left home at 1:00 and returned at 4:45. That was one long concert. You could practically hear the buttocks screaming for mercy. Great googly moogly! I could have spent less time at an eighties hair-band concert.

While stranded there waiting for The Pony to be released at the last note of the last band of the last performance of the year...my mind found a way to occupy itself. Kind of like The Devil is the main hirer of idle hands.

Just sit right back
And you'll hear a tale,
A tale of a sordid woe
That started from this Backroads town
Aboard my black Tahoe.

The Pony was a mighty trombone guy,
His mother old as dirt.
Three passengers set off that day
For a spring band concert.
A spring band concert.

The program started running long,
The audience was pissed.
If not for the love of their precious kids,
They would have booed and hissed.
They would have booed and hissed.

So this is the tale of beleaguered Val,
Who was there for a long, long time.
She couldn't polish her contest piece
To submit on time.
To submit on time.

The Pony and his brother, too,
Have done their very best
To keep their mother comfortable,
In her cool, dark, basement nest.

No phone, no lights, no snacky things,
Not a single luxury.
Just monitor, mouse, and keyboard...
Don't waste that entry fee.

So join me here this fall, my friends
To see if Val can toot
Her long horns over victory,
Or if the point is moot.

Thank you. I'll be here all week. Right after I finish my three-hour tour on the U.S.S. Minnow.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Each, in Her Own Way, Receives Her Due on Mother's Day

My blog buddy Stephen, who weaves tales at The Chubby Chatterbox, inspired me today with his take on a memorable Mother's Day.

I had not originally planned a Mother's Day post. That's just not Val. No syrupy sweet stories of my momma here. That's not how we relate to each other. But I DO talk to her for fifteen minutes before work every morning, and longer most evenings. Mom is, as Hick would say, set in her ways. Of course, he also says that about me. Which may reveal more about Hick that it does about us.

Mom was born in 1934. She will be seventy-eight years old at the end of this month. As a child of the Great Depression, she is a thrifty old gal. We won't go into her penchant for washing out Ziploc bags (though the generic brand, of course), and foam carryout containers, and saving the plastic wrap and foil to re-cover holiday potluck dishes. But we WILL discuss her habits when dining out.

Mom is known for taking home more than she consumes. If we take her to Ponderosa, she has the chopped steak. Oh, she doesn't eat it there. She puts it on the roll, and wraps it in a napkin, and puts it in her purse. She might have a few fries. A slice of melon off the buffet. But that's it. At a local BBQ restaurant (which has since gone out of business, though I hope through no fault of Mom), she would order the child's plate pulled pork sandwich. Then she pulled the pork off the bun except for a few straggling fibers, asked for a carryout box, and put the majority of the pork in it with a basket of rolls.

At one of her favorite establishments, Captain D's, Mom has the fish and fries. She gives the fries to The Pony, gets him a double order of breadsticks, takes one, and puts her fish on it to take home. At an all-you-can eat catfish house, she does not partake of the family-style platters of catfish, chicken, shrimp, slaw, and baked beans with the rest of us. She orders a child's plate, puts the piece of fish on a roll, and again, tucks it into her purse.

You haven't lived until you've dined with Mom at a Chinese buffet. She orders off the menu. Six crab rangoon and sweet-and-sour sauce. That's it. Never mind that other times, she will eat leftover rice and entrees from our carryout. Every summer, she asks my sister and I to bring our kids to the Pizza Hut lunch buffet, her treat. Food for thee, but not for me, seems to be her motto. While we load up, Mom eats a single slice of cheese pizza.

Always with the rolls...you'd think she was Heidi, hoarding them to take back up the mountain. Stashing food away for later, like Lloyd Henreid in his prison cell waiting for Randall Flagg to show up and save him from eating that rat, or nibbling on Trask's leg. Perhaps she should be banned from watching Survivor each season.

Her actions are the same, no matter whether she is paying, or somebody else is treating her. No matter if it's fast food, a chain, or a nice restaurant. We have, in fact, given up on taking her to nice restaurants. Not that there are many of them here in Backroads, anyway.

Mom's tactics appear to be a personal peccadillo, not financially motivated. Shh...don't let her hear you say peccadillo. She might think it's naughty.

I love ya, Mom! Let's do lunch.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Val, of the Cast-Iron Stomach

Last week, I dropped my fork at lunch.

The reaction of my dining companions was a bit overblown. You'd think a new inmate had lost his grip on a bar of Irish Spring in the communal shower. That a wide receiver had contracted a severe case of butterfingers in the end zone during the final two seconds of Super Bowl double overtime. That Michael Jackson had dangled his baby, Blanket, over a hotel balcony. Even Mr. Principal offered to get me a new fork.

"Guys! It's okay. I'll get it." I scooted my fork out from under the table with my foot. Wiped it on my shirtfront, And commenced to eatin'. They looked at me like a cat watching its owner step into a shower. Like a vegan watching a competitive eater take on the Big Texan 72 oz. Steak Challenge. Like a toddler watching an adult voluntarily receive a flu shot.

Obviously, these people had never eaten a piece of garlic toast dropped on the top step of the basement stairs. Or a slice of sausage that flipped off the top of the microwave and onto the classroom tiles. Or fed their toddler the half of a chocolate chip granola bar that he squeezed until it fell onto the cat-infested-garage floor. It's floor food, people! Not detritus fished from a cesspool or bucket of pus. Floor food!

And by the way, there's no five-second rule. It will be good for a couple of hours if you don't have indoor pets. Were you all grown in Petri dishes and nurtured under antiseptic conditions? What if you have to travel to India? And dine at a market stall on delicacies that have been marinating in their own juices under the blazing sun and insect feet? Or get invited to Korea, and are offered kimchi? Or visit New York, and the only food you can afford is a hot dog from a sidewalk cart?

Rank amateurs!

Friday, May 11, 2012

I Do NOT Have a Borgia in my Family Tree

Last Saturday, Hick and Genius worked at the school carnival. It was an all-day affair. They had to arrive at 7:00 a.m., and didn't return home until 1:00 a.m. The Pony marched in the parade, and Genius rode in a car as Sweetheart Dance king, wearing a crown that was too small for his extra-large cranium. The weather was perfect for a parade, if you didn't have to stand on the street and watch it, or march in it. Ninety-three degrees, humid, sunny. The gym where most of the carnival action took place was not air conditioned. Thank goodness, there was only one case of heat stroke.

The next morning, I saw that Hick had brought home some BBQ from the carnival. Whether it was left over, or purchased at a discount near the end of the day, I do not know. But he had white foam containers filled with ten hot dogs, ten bratwursts, and four pork steaks. I gave some to my mom. We took some in our lunches. And in the evenings, we ate on that bounty for a few days. Then I returned to my duties as the short-temper cook.

On Thursday evening, my mom picked up The Pony at school and brought him home, because I had taken the day off to accompany Hick for some minor surgery at his eye doctor's office. Don't EVEN ask me to go into that right now. Mom picked up some pizza on her way to our house, so that was our supper.

Hick, stitches and all, left for the auction before supper was squared away. I put  his pizza, still in a box, in the fridge. In doing so, I noticed that a container of leftover hot dogs and brats was in the way, so I set them out on the stove to be tossed to the dogs. Hick usually does that in the mornings, when it's time to feed the fleabags.

This morning, I went to get some pizza to pack for lunch, and saw that the whole amount was still in the box. I asked Hick what he had eaten for supper when he got home from the auction. You guessed it.

"I had a couple of sausages, with slaw. I love slaw dogs."

"THOSE WERE FOR THE DOGS! They were six days old! And they had been sitting out for at least five hours!"

"I ain't sick. I feel fine. And they were still cool."

"You do not have good sense! How long did they sit out at the carnival before you even brought them home?"

"They were still good. I thought you set them out for me to eat."

He's like Homer Simpson digging that big sandwich out of the garbage can. So far, no hallucinations.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Not So Much a Phobia as a Favor: Saving You from the Affliction that is Val

I recently received an email from a blog buddy, in which she broached the subject of a possible meet-up with other bloggers who reside in the greater Backroads area.

Help meeeeeee!

I find the idea of such a gathering a bit daunting. Not because I fear an undercover sting operation. Nor a bracing beat-down with bars of soap tucked into pillowcases. Nor the conclusion, when Ashton Kutcher comes out to say I've been punked. This may come as a surprise to you, but I am not a social butterfly.

It's not that I'm shy. I can hold my own in a conversation. But I don't initiate it. Who would want to hear what I have to say? If my life was A League of Their Own, I would be Marla Hooch. Without the slugging capability. I'm Carrie White without telekinesis. "Caddy" (it's KAY-dee!) Heron in Mean Girls, without the actress's substance abuse issues. Had Lord of the Flies been written as Lady of the Flies, I would be Piggy. I always feel like the fifth wheel, the sixth toe, the third rail. Well. Maybe not the third rail. I'm not that electrifying.

For the most part, people respond to me in a positive manner. But I'm always afraid of saying something really stupid. Not as stupid as Jerry Seinfeld and his "panties your mother laid out for you" stupid. Not even "when are you gonna breed these steers" stupid. Just mildly stupid. Where everybody stops talking and looks at me. In pin-drop silence.

When I write stupid stuff, I can go back and edit. Or maybe not, you  might be thinking. But at least I can't hear the silence. Or even worse, the gasps. See the surreptitious glances. The clandestine finger twirling near the ear.

Val is a dish best served up in the print medium.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Serving It Up on a Spiteful Platter

I am no shrinking violet when it comes to revenge. I love serving it cold. Or hot. Or even lukewarm. Makes no nevermind to me, as long as my own brand of personal justice is served. No turning the other cheek for me. That just makes for two sore cheeks.

You might recall that I live up a gravel road that joins a blacktop county road beside a creek and low water bridge. I think I've mentioned that a time or fifty. The thing about idyllic, quiet, country roads is that they attract ne'er do wells. Dumpers. Truckloads of tree trimmings, cardboard beer boxes, Hefty bags of household garbage, portable meth labs, kaboodles of kittens...you name it, we've had it.

I've had it. While it might be somewhat satisfying to skewer Dumpers on my blog, I reach a point where consequences must be meted to the perpetrators. So several years ago, when I spied a fresh bag of trash on a Saturday morning, I sprang into action.

I stopped to pick up a Walmart bag full of trash on our gravel road. It was close to the entrance, like somebody had pulled off specifically to clean out their car. I drove back home, rifled through the contents, and mined the gold nugget I had been searching for: an address. I think it was on a cardboard advertisement for cigarettes. Maybe an offer for a free pack. I'm assuming the Dumper was a smoker, because there was also a lot of butts in the area where I picked up the bag of trash. Most of the contents escape me now, but I know there were losing scratch-off tickets, a wrapper for a child's toy, and a 20 oz. bottle of soda. Dr. Pepper, perhaps, partially full.

I had the most scathingly brilliant idea! I typed up a letter reminding Dumper of the sign at the entrance to our gravel road. The sign proclaiming it private. Alluding to the prosecution of trespassers. I reminded Dumper that I had the card printed with his address. And that any further trash would be attributed to him. I then explained that I was returning his property. That was only fair. And, with the exception of the addressed card, I dumped the whole bag of trash into an Amazon box and sealed it shut. I made a large tag with Dumpers address, and affixed it to the box. Then I headed to town. To the post office.

My sweet, sweet revenge cost me a couple of dollars. It was money well spent. For a week, I played over the scenario in my head. Dumper got a little orange card in his mailbox. "What? A package for ME? I'll have to drive to the post office and get it. I wonder who could be sending me a package. I LOVE packages." So Dumper loads his kid in the car. Or leaves work early in order to get to the post office before closing time. He waits in line. Presents the card. Gets his Amazon package. Rips it open. AND SEES HIS OWN TRASH AND A HATEFUL LETTER.

I'm still laughing best.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Hindsight is 40 Dollars

I can't believe this solution to yesterday's unwanted lawn-mower conundrum did not occur to me until this morning.

Genius should go to Neighbor Lady's house and mow her lawn. The best time would be soon after she is observed driving away. Once the deed is done, Genius can sit on the porch and wait for her return. "I mowed your yard for you. Because you've been so kind in mowing my aunt's yard without her even asking, I'm going to reduce my rate from $50 to $40. But I can only take cash, because I don't have a bank account."

Yeah. Something tells me that Genius just donated a couple hours of his time for nothing. But it would be worth it if he captured the look on Neighbor Lady's face with his phone camera. The moment when she realized her reign of extortion was over.

I must be sorely lacking in vitamin ZZZZs for that obvious remedy to evade my problem-solving skill set. You'd think my thinking cap was reclining on a chaise lounge. soaking up the sun on a white-sand beach, overlooking an azure sea, knocking back a Corona...rather than being planted all backwards and cool upon my recently Donald-Trumped tresses.

Fighting fire with fire. Gandering the goose that mowed the golden lawn. Dosing Neighbor Lady with her own medicine.

Karma keeps a running total. And Even Steven is her henchman.

Monday, May 7, 2012

He Might as Well Paint Addresses on the Curb

Is anybody missing a bee? Because I have one buzzing around in my bonnet at this very moment. I cannot resist the urge to let it out. So if you value your bee, get on over here with a Mason jar and scoop it up.

Genius mows yards in the summer. This is his second year. One of his customers is my aunt, who lives in town about a half mile from my mom. Genius was busy last week with the school carnival. He tried two or three times to contact Auntie in the middle of the week, so he could mow her lawn before going to build the float at six o'clock. Auntie was unavailable. Genius spent Friday afternoon and night, plus all day Saturday, working on the carnival. Auntie worked at it on Saturday night as well. Neither of them mentioned the yard.

Sunday, Genius said he was going to town to mow his grandma's yard, and then Auntie's. After finishing Mom's yard, he told her he was heading over to Auntie's house. Mom said, "Are you sure? I went by there yesterday and saw a lady mowing it with a riding mower." Genius did not believe her. After all, Auntie had used him all last summer, and once already this summer. He left to check it out.

Indeed, the lawn had already been mowed. Genius was disappointed. He counts his chickens before they hatch. He already had plans for that payday. He was worried that Auntie had switched lawn-care providers. That she was dissatisfied with his work, and had hired somebody new.

I got ahold of Auntie after school today. "Do you still need Genius to mow your yard? He came by yesterday, and it had already been mowed. Mom said she saw a lady on a riding mower."

"Yes! That's the neighbor I told you about a couple weeks ago. She mowed my yard. Then she asked for $50. I told her she was crazy. That I'd pay her $40, but not to do it again, because my nephew was going to mow for me again this year. When I pulled into my driveway Saturday, there she was, mowing again!"

"Did you pay her."

"Yes. What was I SUPPOSED to do?"

"Well, I wouldn't have paid her. She was told not to mow it. And she did it anyway. Because you paid her the first time, and she figured you would pay her again. She'll probably KEEP mowing it, because you pay her."

"But I don't WANT her to mow it. I told Genius. And he does a much better job. She didn't weed-eat, and I had to rake up the trimmings. I put them in a wheelbarrow, and now it rained, and they're soaked. My son saw the yard and said, 'Mom, she didn't mow that right. She doesn't know what she's doing.' "

"She's trespassing! You told her NOT to mow it, and she did. She'll keep on until you don't pay her."

"Tell Genius to mow it whenever he mows your mom's yard. He doesn't have to ask me first. Just mow it, and I'll pay him."

Just so you know...Auntie's yard is fenced. It's not like Neighbor Lady might mow across an imaginary boundary between the yards and think, "I might as well finish this part, too." She has to leave her yard, go to the front sidewalk area by the street, get off her riding mower, open a gate, get back on her riding mower, drive through, get off the mower to close the gate, then get back on and mow. 

I relayed Auntie's message to Genius. He said he normally mows Auntie's yard once a week, because it grows faster. She's down by the river. Mom's house is on top of a cliff with a thin layer of topsoil and sparse grass. I recommended that Genius mow Auntie's once a week, on a specific day, or else that neighbor lady would beat him to it. And that if he ever saw her there mowing, to go get Mom's mower and go back and join her. Maybe she would get the message if her pay got cut.

So...am I wrong here?

If you think so, then please email me your address. I'll be off work Thursday to take Hick to the doctor, and I might just swing by and castrate your AKC registered Cocker Spaniel while he's out in the yard. Surely you'll pay me the going rate for a veterinarian, even if I don't do the job quite right. Even though you didn't ask me to do it. Even though you specifically told me NOT to do it, because you're going to make stud fee money off of him.

Same concept, right?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Vampire Vigor Whiner Why

You'd think I might  have learned my lesson by now. That I would take my tresses to an upscale salon for trimming. Treat my follicles to an Edwardsian $1250 haircut. Or at least shampoo my skull-cozy in a school faculty bathroom sink and let a third-grader snip it into style.

But you'd be wrong. I have learned no such lesson. I continue to return to the scene of my butchering like so many birdbrained swallows to Capistrano.

Cue the stabby Psycho music. I got another bad haircut!

Perhaps not ALL people would consider it bad. It's kind of a brunette Donald Trump 'do. So The Donald and Melania and Don Jr. and Eric and Ivanka might think it's perfectly acceptable. Well. We might need to disinclude Melania, because I'm not worth $2.9 billion.

I should have known I was in trouble when the only stylist I recognized was taking twenty minutes to shorten a little girl's hair. And I use stylist in the manner one might use to term Hannibal Lecter a chef.

My new cutter was spindly and pale. So pale, in fact, that she had careened down the path approaching the precipice overlooking the abyss of albino, and plunged into the chasm of bloodlessness. I have not read the Twilight series, so I have no clever references. But New Cutter could have been one of Bram Stoker's undead, what with her pallor and superhuman strength. Let's just say I was relieved to see her reflection in the mirror.

New Cutter carefully covered my neck with that gauzy stuff before strapping on the cape. It could have been a clue that she had plans for my carotid region later. Or she wanted something to keep my head from popping off during the cutting. Did I mention superhuman strength?

New Cutter asked if I was tender-headed. No. So she yanked her comb willy-nilly through strands that had been interwoven by the 30 mph winds that day. My head bobbled like an Albert Pujols bobblehead. She asked how much I wanted off. I told her about an inch and a half. I'm guessing that New Cutter has two daddies. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But they really needed to expose her to more women during her formative years in order for her to accurately measure length.

Next, New Cutter grabbed a handful of hair like she was latching onto Old Bossie's teat with the intention of milking her into severe dehydration. While lifting me two inches off the chair in with this technique, New Cutter sawed three inches off hanks of varying thickness. By the time she had finished, my head was as unkempt as that of Rachel Dratch as this SNL character:

Without the tiny arm.

I am seriously considering starting a modern-day Rapunzel movement.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Backroads Youth Foils Impersonation Attempt


A Backroads youth refused to take part in a scam involving the impersonation of a foreign dictator today.

Pony Thevictorian, fourteen, was targeted earlier this week as an accomplice in identity theft. Pony was not present at the time of his nomination. It appears that his father had offered him up for the crime last week. Other adults in the stolen identity ring ran with the plan while Mr. Thevictorian was out of town on business. Legitimate business.

The plot began to unravel when Mrs. Thevictorian, a local Backroads celebrity, got wind of it at work. Her boss mentioned in passing that he heard the younger Thevictorian would be impersonating Little Caesar in the annual school carnival parade. Mrs. Thevictorian denied the rumor, then commenced to fact-checking.

Genius Thevictorian, older brother of Pony, was interrogated first. He sang like a hyperactive canary all hopped up on energy drinks. "I heard the exact same thing! Everybody is telling me that. I have no idea where they heard about it!"

A frantic call to Mr. Thevictorian revealed his contribution to the clandestine caper. "I might have mentioned it at a previous meeting of the Unofficial School Carnival Organization and Implementation Committee. But apparently they followed through without my input at the last meeting. I have since learned that Pony has been a member of the school band for the past three years, and as such, cannot cavort along the parade route dressed as Little Caesar. A new impersonator will have to be found."

Pony declared that nobody had approached him in person to request his assistance in the operation. "This is the first I have heard of it. Even if somebody asked me to be Little Caesar, I would say no. If Dad tells me to do it, I won't. I have to march with the band."

Update: 6:30 p.m.

Little Caesar was observed riding in the back of a white Dodge pickup truck over the entire parade route. He did not wave to the crowd or toss coupons to the children with painted faces who lined the street, gazing woefully skyward at yellow-and-blue mottled helium balloons which had escaped the thin, red ribbons tethering them to their wrists.

In front of the grandstand, Little Caesar was seen ramming his arm up under his toga, in what appeared to be an attempt to remove his own spleen, or deliver an alien that was intent on bursting from his rib cage.

His identity remains unknown.

Friday, May 4, 2012

An Epic Tale

The Pony entered my classroom this afternoon looking a bit glum. There was no need. We had an early out. He should have been prancing with anticipation. I asked him to assist me in a minor task, and he responded grudgingly. Which is quite unusual for The Pony.

I wracked my brain for any real or perceived slights that might have set him off. We were leaving immediately. No hanging around, depriving him of laptop time. I had not chastised him for any minor infractions. He stalked down the long hall to the exit, fifteen paces ahead. Answers to my questions were monosyllabic, tossed over his shoulder.

On the route past the park, around the bustling metropolis of his campus, I deployed my final weapon. "If missing your lunch is going to make you act this way, you will never skip lunch again." Let the record show that The Pony was not totally without sustenance. He had extra Multigrain Pringles. A cereal bar. And ice water in a metal container. But he had run out of his usual lunch entree, a corn dog. He had refused a sandwich, cheese and crackers, or a slice of pizza. Since school was out at 12:45, I let it slide. Until now.

Let the record also show that The Pony is notorious for concealing his wounds. Emotional, physical...since he was a tiny foal, his coping method has been to duck his head and say nothing. Whacks from fellow toddlers at daycare, head split open by his brother, finger smashed by a schoolgirl. Silence. Getting an answer from him is like pulling teeth. From a shark. You can extract chompers until the cows come home, and you won't get any information unless The Pony is good and ready to divulge.

Up past the park we went, curving toward our way home, The Pony sad-eyed in the rearview mirror. Then he spoke. "That's not it at all. I lost my flash drive." He's only had a flash drive for a week. A kid traded it to him for a cereal bar. A kid who forgot his lunch. So it was used. And reportedly didn't light up. The Pony was enamored of it. Because, you see, he is writing a book. Two thousand words a day. With a flash drive, he can write at school when he has free computer time. Last weekend, I bought him another one. He uses one as a backup every evening. So he only lost about two thousand words. But to him, the losing itself was a catastrophe.

The Pony looked like he was going to cry. His bottom lip jutted out. Trembled. "I was going up the stairs, and somebody stepped on the back of my shoe. I had my flash drive in my pocket, holding it in my hand. As I fell, I put my hands out, and my flash drive flipped over the rail. I looked for it, but I couldn't find it."

"Let's go back. We're right here by the turn."

"It's not there. I looked."

"Did you hear it hit?"

"I thought I did. But it wasn't there. I had to go to class. There was only thirty minutes left until the bell. Then I had to get on the bus."

"Well, maybe nobody has seen it yet, with the early out. They were probably in a hurry to go. And if you heard it hit, it must be there somewhere. Not in the big trash can. Or maybe it got turned in to the office."

"It's no use."

"What's the worse that could happen? That you don't find it? It can't get any loster. Let's go. The building will be open. They're setting up for the school carnival. Your dad is supposed to be working. I need to talk to him anyway."


The parking lot was almost empty. Hick had not yet arrived. "Run on in and look. I'll see if anybody is in the office." The Pony jumped out and went in. I found him at the top of the steps, ducking his head. His principal and a teacher walked by.

"Hey, Pony! What are you still doing here?"

"Tell them."

"I lost my flash drive. So we came back to look for it."

"What did it look like?"

"It's red."

"Hey! Secretary! You know that red flash drive on your desk? It belongs to The Pony. Get it."

She was already locking up the door when the principal hollered to her. Talk about excellent timing. The Pony trotted over to get it. "Thank you!" He beamed from ear to ear.

"See how happy you've made him? It would have been a long weekend without that flash drive."

The Pony's hooves were floating above the ground all the way to the car. "Thank you for bringing me back. I can't believe they had it!"

If only I could fix all of his future wounds so simply.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Backroads Miz Manners Addresses the Tissue Issue

Dear Backroads Miz Manners,

I work in the field of education. I try to provide my students with the comforts of home. Or the comforts of what a home should have. I buy Germ-X and Puffs-with-Lotion as a courtesy. Nobody is reimbursing me for such items. The cost runs in the low three figures each year. I put them out, free for the taking, so the sickly among us can heal without stressing over where their next tissue is coming from.

Today a child emptied her sinuses into several such tissues, and announced loudly, "Your Kleenex smells funny." Kids can be so cruel. My feelings were hurt. I was left without a comeback.

How should I deal with such a situation in the future?

Feelings Throbbing on My Sleeve

Dear Throbbing,

What a curious illness that child must have, to garner an enhanced sense of smell from a nasal-clogging virus! Perhaps the expulsion of a snootful of snot gave her superhuman smellage. And what kind of "funny" was the odor? Did the tissue smell like a red, rubber clown nose? A tickle feather? A foot-squashed banana peel?

If such a comment is repeated, the best answer might be a simple, "Then maybe you'd better not use them." That places the tissue ball in Snooty's court. She can drip dry, or she can choose to use the funny tissues.

Another classy rejoinder might be, "Feel free to bring in the kind that you prefer, and share them with the class."

Under no circumstances should one enter into a rant along the lines of, "You people are so ungrateful! I spend my own money on those tissues. But if you're going to complain, by cracky, I'll get a roll of see-through toilet paper from the supply closet, and you can use THAT to blow it out your nose!"

Remain classy, Throbbing.

Backroads Miz Manners

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Val Highly Recommends...

I have a new favorite book: Let's Pretend This Never Happened, by Jenny Lawson.

Of course, almost every book I finish is my favorite--until I read the next one. I have a new stack waiting that arrived yesterday. But for now, this one is tops. I get her. I really get her. That's the way I think when I write, even though I try to filter it to be somewhat socially acceptable.

I don't want to ruin it for you, in case  you plan to read it. But let's just say that the tale of the magical talking squirrel had me laughing out loud. Inappropriately. I shared it with Genius. Who chuckled. Out loud. And added, "That is SO wrong!" And then chuckled some more. I must say, it puts my experience of being on the receiving end of a possibly rabid chipmunk's teeth to shame. In game of poker, Ms. Lawson would have me soundly beat. Her straight flush to my mixed-suit hand of nothing, high card seven.

Check it out. How can you resist that cover? Unless, perhaps, you are currently dealing with a rodent infestation, Or have lost a loved one to the hantavirus. Or loathe drama in any form.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Glimpse into Val's Life

Hick is away on business. A phone call with him is kind of like a Who's on First routine.




How is everybody.

Okay. The Pony is in the tub. Genius is still working on the carnival float.

I'm in my room now.

Why did I just hear a woman in the background?

There's no woman here.

I just heard one. I thought it was an echo of my voice, but now I don't hear it.

I guarantee you, there's no woman in my room.

You're holding your hand over her mouth right now, aren't you?

No. There's no one here.

So, you aren't working with the Secret Service?

No. No Secret Service.

That's good to know.

The state guys invited me to go eat with them. But I said no.

That's probably just as well. You don't know what hanky-panky they could be up to.

I bought myself a bag of Chex Mix and a soda for a snack later. Because I already ate chicken for supper.

I bought you snacks to take on your trip. Sugar free.

I saw it on the table. Licorice.

Twizzlers. You could have taken it with you to see The Three Stooges on Sunday, if you carried a purse.

Well, I don't carry a purse. And neither does The Pony.

Yeah. He's not like Genius.Will the alarm go off for me in the morning?

If you turn it on. I have to get up early and meet Donna.

Donna? I thought you said there were no women there.

She's giving me my badge.

I'll bet she is.

Whew! I'm tired. I've been rubbing my eyes.

Did you pack your breather?

No. It's too much trouble.

Yeah. Staying alive is very tiring.

I'll be fine. My eyes are burning. I just got back from helping the HazMat guys set up the booth.

So let me get this straight. You helped set up a hazardous materials booth, then you rubbed your eyes, and now they're burning?

Pretty much.

Nobody can help you.

I'm tired. I'm getting ready for bed.

Remember to breathe.

Yeah. I'll prop myself up on the pillows.


Funny how Hick puts the pillows over his face at home, but is planning to remain on top of them while he's away.

Thus ends another loving call home from Hick the Peeper. I hope nobody opens his bathroom door when he's getting ready to meet Donna in the morning. That would be sweet, sweet poetic justice.