Unbagging the Cats 1

Unbagging the Cats 1

Monday, July 9, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Do you have ID?"

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

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

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

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

"Thirteen thirteen Mockingbird Lane."

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

I don't get no respect.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Heartbreaking Jerk of Staggering Meanness

I am beside myself.

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Sometimes, It's Not All About Us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 6, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See what I'm up against?

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

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Val Hits the Big Time

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

I HAVE RECEIVED AN OFFER FOR PUBLICATION!

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

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

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

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

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

There might even be a bookmark in your future!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

We Interrupt Our Nation's Birthday for This Important Annoucement

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Enabler is Enlightened

Today, I tried to give Genius enough confidence to make his own sandwich. You know, because he IS perfectly capable. He does it when I'm not home. So surely, it has to be a feeling of inadequacy that causes him to be unable to stack bread, turkey, cheese, bread when I am present. It's not rocket science. It should be child's play for a lad who scored 34 on his SAT.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 2, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I didn't think it would be."

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

Or just ask an eighth grade boy.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Seasonal Reading

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

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

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

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