Sunday, November 30, 2014

Head, Shoulders, News And 'Hoe's

Ack! Something is going on in the atmosphere that Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's joints are fighting. All joints. And sinuses. Simply sitting at my New Delly's keyboard in my dark basement lair is agony. The knuckles of my left hand have taken an extreme exception to the atmospheric pressure. I put my knee ice on them for a few minutes, then held them in front of the heater under my desk. Such a rotation four times made it possible for me not to cry out in pain. Don't know what's going on, but I'm not liking it.

My mom is finally seeing the real doctors tomorrow, after the upperclassmen of the medical students tended her over the four-day holiday weekend. She is doing well, with the exception of her right leg, which objects to pulling its weight. They seem to think she had neither stroke nor heart issues, but rather a seizure of undetermined origin. She is expected to make a full recovery, but must go from hospital to rehab until her leg is strengthened. She has all movement back in her arm. Those were the only two appendages affected.

We are muddling through here at the Mansion. Farmer H's vacation week was taken up with hospital visits. Even I feel bad for him. Today he used some glass-carrier's suction cups which he bought at the auction Saturday night for a dollar to remove a dent in his Pacifica's side. More on how that dent occurred at a later date.

T-Hoe seems to list to the right now that I made The Pony use my school keys to release four pounds of air from the tire that Farmer H had fixed, even though nothing was wrong with it. We added five pounds of air to the bad tire. Now there is only a four-pound discrepancy between them. But T-Hoe pulls to the right. Seems like it should be the opposite.

Oh, and even though the mechanics that we paid $565 to put T-Hoe back together again say they repaired a tire that had nothing wrong with it...they left off the stem cap. So we were ripped off not only for unnecessary repairs, but for a stem cap.

Some months, it just doesn't pay to be Mrs. Hillbilly Mom. And it pays even less to be Farmer H.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Pony Is The King Of Feasts

I'm not saying I know my way around a kitchen more than enough to heat food in the oven or warm it in the microwave. But once we discovered Wednesday night that Mrs. Hillbilly Mom was going to have to prepare a Thanksgiving dinner, I made a mental menu and headed out for provisions Thanksgiving morning.

Poor Pony. What a life he must have had that led to this scenario. I dished up his food onto a plastic tray the likes of which were once used in school cafeterias back when the cooks actually COOKED the food, and did not slop warmed-up processed items on Styrofoam trays. Let the record show that even though Mrs. Hillbilly Mom has had access to school lunch trays for most of her working school lunch trays were obtained by illicit means. These Hillbilly family trays were bought with the sweat of Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's brow, when The Pony was just a gleam in her myopic eye. No fine china for this bunch.

The Pony picked up his tray. "I'm going to take a picture of this!" Such excitement from one so even-keeled.

Let the record show that The Pony sent out this picture with the message: "Can you tell I like stuffing?"

Indeed. Not only is The Pony a Butterton, but he loooooves him some stuffing. Of course it is Stove Top. That's what The Pony prefers. In addition, he had a slab of chicken breast roasted with lemon pepper, a stick a little bit of butter, four rolls, roasted carrots, a bacon/green bean bundle, and hash brown potato casserole. He ate everything except three carrots (shocking, I know), a few cubes of potato, and several errant crumbs of stuffing. He said he was full. In fact, he was SO full that he didn't touch THIS until the next morning:

Let the record show that at such time, The Pony carved up a generous two-Oreo slice to start the day.

Friday, November 28, 2014

They Can Stop Busting Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's Hump Any Time Now

Mrs. Hillbilly Mom has a bone to pick with her bank.

Is it not bad enough to lose one's debit card on Wednesday evening of the Thanksgiving weekend? Just because one is preoccupied with one's mother having two ambulance rides in one day for a total of 90+ miles, and having one's surly husband riding shotgun because he doesn't deal with bank drive-thru transactions, and having one's Pony count one's money for a deposit in one's #1 son's account, and come up $20 over, thus the apparent reason for the 34 on the ACT with a perfect score in every subject area except math, and then having a crowding tailgater waiting to get at the ATM?

Good thing Mrs. Hillbilly Mom had cash on hand. And good thing Mrs. Hillbilly Mom is not a Black Friday shopper. I went to the bank at 11:00 a.m. to ask for my card back. Five people were standing around twiddling their thumbs. One other customer was in the bank. But no. I could not get my debit card back.

"We haven't opened the ATM. Maybe at 2:00. Can you get it at 2:00?"

"I live fifteen miles away. I won't be here at 2:00."

"Can you come in tomorrow morning?"

"No. I'm going to the hospital to visit my mother tomorrow morning. I can't come in Monday evening because I have a meeting after work. I was really hoping to get my debit card today."

"We can call you when we get it out."

"That doesn't help me now."

"You can call us to see if we have it out."

"Never mind. I will get it sometime."

Seriously. What is with these people? Is that ATM on a timer? Is there only one authorized opener who works an hour a day? Are they holding money in there for Fort Knox? Why can nobody explain why THEY CAN'T GET MY CARD OUT OF THE ATM?

I have half a mind to switch banks. But the other half reminds me how much trouble other people have had with my other options.

I might just have to convert my assets to gold coins.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Who Knows What Armchair Lurks Under The Couches Of Hillbillies? The Pony Knows.

Ain't that a purty li'l thang? Do you know what it is? It's a PHONE CHAIR! Uh huh. A little promotional item picked up by Farmer H on one of his many tool show convention business trips. Free thingamabobs to pass on to people who will never use them. Kid people, perhaps, who live in your house.

I'm sure this phone chair was originally given to the #1 son. He's a gadget grabber. A cushy seat for his precious phone? You bet #1 wants it. For about a day. Let's see. #1 has been off to college for over a year. I can't remember the last tool show Farmer H attended. But today, on Thanksgiving, no less, The Pony excavated this artifact from under the couch.

"Hey! Look! It's a little chair! For a phone!"

Uh huh. Perhaps that speaks to the housecleaning habits of Mrs. Hillbilly Mom. Don't judge. Can you honestly say that YOU never lost a chair under your couch? Seriously? What kind of obsessive-compulsive clean freaks ARE you? I'm sure this little cell seat was knocked off the table and subsequently kicked under the couch. Maybe it was a supernatural event late at night. In no way were the slovenly household habits of Mrs. Hillbilly Mom to blame.

Yep. Indiana The Pony Jones was quite pleased with his discovery. Then he went off and left it on the coffee table.

He'll never have a movie franchise named after him with at this rate.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Through the Courtesy of Strange Four Feet

When we last convened, Farmer H, Hillbilly Mom, and The Pony were feasting on all-you-can-eat catfish and fixin's for a belated 25th anniversary dinner. Of course that's not the end of the story.

At first Mrs. HM was a bit cranky. I know. So uncharacteristic of her. But the restaurant was cold. And, as has been established, Mrs. HM had no coat, what with both of her winter outer garments being LOCKED UP as tight as her best old ex teaching buddy Mabel's scissors, rulers, and giant yellow glue sticks in a brown metal storage locker, in the back of her T-Hoe.

To subtract degrees from her chill, the red-and-white-checked plastic tablecloth was wet from the clean plate, which must have just been scrubbed with sand down in the spring-fed creek. So Mrs. HM's forearms cooled from evaporation. Guess that'll learn her to keep her elbows off the table!

The food was delectable. The Pony loaded up on fat fries, shrimp, and hush puppies with honey butter. Farmer H was partial to the shrimp and catfish and baked beans, and the fattest fries that Mrs. HM had pegged for her own. Mrs. HM had a heapin' helpin' of slaw, then made it her mission to consume as much chicken breast pieces dipped in special sauce as was humanly possible, what with also scarfing down mass quantities of catfish swiped through tartar sauce. Mmmm!

But that's not the best part! The best part was when the waiter left the bill. Farmer H took an exceptional amount of time inspecting it. I know he was trying to figure the tip. I don't know why he doesn't just leave two dollars no matter how much the meal costs. That's my mom's tactic. So I asked him what the problem was, and he handed me the bill.

Heh, heh. Funny how I don't remember us having two all-you-can-eats, plus a lemonade and a sweet tea. THAT'S BECAUSE WE DIDN'T! We had the bill of the people at a table across from us. I told Farmer H to inform the waiter. Which he did. No good can come from ripping off the catfish people.

Yeah. We could have saved $15 bucks. But we didn't.

I hope the other customers checked their bill before paying.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Some Stitches Too Late Makes Eight

The best-laid plans of Mrs. Hillbilly Mom often go awry. She did NOT get her anniversary dinner last night, because Farmer H was still at the hospital with Mrs. Hillbilly Mom’s mom at the late hour of 6:10 p.m. They did not return to the home of HM’s mom until 8:00 p.m. Yeah. That’s a little late for dinner around Hillmomba, where school lunch is served at 10:53 a.m., and supper us usually at 5:00.

Sooo…we’re going tonight, to a catfish house for, well, catfish, and chicken and shrimp and hush puppies and baked beans and slaw. SLAW! They have the best slaw ever! Shh…don’t tell my mom. I’m not sure she can have it on her diet. If she can, I would be tempted to get her a carry-out container and drop it by her house tomorrow.

Mom’s face is looking good, according to Farmer H and the comments he related from the staff at the hospital. They were supposed to be there at 2:00, but the doctor was in surgery. Then at 4:30 they found out they went to the wrong room. At 5:00, a doctor came in and said he’d be right back, because he needed to see the orders the surgeon who did Mom’s surgery had left. Like nobody had thought about that all the live-long day. THEN he had to check to see if he could take out some more stitches, to save her a trip back up there on Wednesday. Sweet Gummi Mary! She could have driven 10 miles and seen a doctor down here since it wasn’t even her surgeon. They even let 1st year medical students take out stitches, probably.

The Pony and I will be awaiting our chariot driven by Farmer H this afternoon. Hopefully it will be T-Hoe, fresh from his tire repair and oil change. We’ll ride in anything, though. Because we’re gonna eat us some catfish!

Oh. Now we have to go in the truck, because Farmer H is letting them keep T-Hoe overnight, which I told him I did NOT want to do. Great. Now I don’t have a car for work tomorrow.

"The best anniversary I've ever had!" declared nobody. Anywhere. Ever.

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Quarter Of A Century!

This is the big 25 for Farmer H and me. Uh huh. Our 25th wedding anniversary. We are having a night on the town, with The Pony, of course. We’re going out for a steak dinner. That’s pretty much it. Let the record show that Farmer H gave me a card and two boxes of candy. I gave him a card and two no-sugar-added mini pies. Yep. We’re true romantics.

Tomorrow, Farmer H has scheduled a check-up for T-Hoe. That means we will follow him to town, where he will leave his Pacifica and get in with us for the ride to school, then he’ll drive T-Hoe back to get his tire fixed, and oil changed, and an exam to see what is making that roaring noise in a tire. If T-Hoe isn’t ready to roll, Farmer H will pick us up in his Pacifica or the $1000 Caravan or his Ford F250 Long Bed Club Cab, but not in his 1980 copper-colored Olds Toronado with the spoke wheels.

Today, he has taken my mom to her doctor appointment in the city. I guess I can forgive him for thumping me in the head a couple nights ago, seeing as how he’s using a vacation week to do all this stuff.

I’m sure Farmer H would rather have monetary compensation, rather than forgiveness.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Small Town Celebrity Problems

Oh, dear. The Devil has been finding work for the idle hands of Newmentia's recent graduates. I know that, because while trying to leave The Devil's Playground today in under thirty minutes at the check-out, I saw a prime example.

Other students have worked there. I try to avoid their lines. Not that they're incompetent or anything, but I don't need them knowing my business. I live at school, you know. So I should only be buying pens and dry erase markers and Germ-X and Puffs With Lotion. Not L'Oreal, feminine products, acne medicine, athlete's foot spray, Pepcid, sugar-free cookies and Little Debbie Cosmic Brownies, Diet Coke and Sprite, eight pudding cups, etc. Because they don't know that some is for me, some is for The Pony, some is for Farmer H, and some is for my mom, who is on a soft diet for two weeks and acts like a child with her tonsils freshly removed. Nope. They assume it's all my stuff. I'm sure they can't wait to twitter it or facebook it or whatever it is these crazy kids do these days. It doesn't pay to be a small-town celebrity.

So anyway, I almost felt sorry for this kid. Little Mister looked so proud in his blue Devil's vest, ringing up stuff at the 15 Items or Less lane. Then Bad Man started in on him. He wanted a refund for something. And Little Mister told him that he was not allowed to give a refund, that Bad Man needed to step over to the customer service desk for that. Bad Man was not having it.

"You're the one who rang me up!"

"I'm not the one who rang you up."

"Do you think I'm stupid? I know what you look like! You had a name tag on! When I was in here two weeks ago, you're the one who rang me up. Now I want a refund!"

The customer behind bad man tried to help. Because Little Mister is a polite fellow, undeserving of this berating, simply for following The Devil's policy.

"I've brought things back lots of times. And you always have to go to customer service for the refund. He can't help you here. Look. It's right over there."

Bad Man glared at both of them. "I don't have time for this. I need my refund. This is the stupidest place I ever saw." He stomped his tiny feet past my line and over to customer service.

I didn't let on. No need to make Little Mister feel any lower. After my shopping was done, The Pony and I dropped of groceries for Mom. Then we headed back through her town. I decided to cash in a lottery winner. Not a big one. Just $40. The minute I stepped into the convenience store, the clerk said, "Hey! You were my teacher!" Great. I can't get away from them. I went ahead with my transaction. As you might guess, she sold me a bunch of losers. Only $10 on ONE winning ticket. I'm hoping the three I have set aside for the #1 son's card this week will bear fruit.

I really need to relocate.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

She's Had More Than Her Share Of Golden Tickets

I am concerned for my sweet, sweet Juno. Yes. I know you're all worried when I'm worried. Juno is Hillmomba's dog. It takes a mythical utopia to raise a pup, you know.

Nothing is wrong with Juno's health. Yet. I finally shamed Farmer H into getting a bag of cedar shavings to fill her kitchen-door dog house again. He complains that she just digs it out in front of our door, even though he declared last winter that he'd solved the problem by nailing a four-inch-high threshold across the bottom (heh, heh, I said bottom) of her entrance. So Juno is toasty in her wooden home with actual insulation and a black-shingled roof, which catches the sun from sunrise until around noon, and is protected from the wind on two sides by The Pony's bedroom and our kitchen, the wind which never swirls the way of her entrance.

No, it's Juno's behavior that concerns me. She seems to be a you say...what's that! How this happened to my sweet, sweet Juno I cannot fathom. One day she's a tiny slip of a canine, leaning her head on my shoulder, receiving hugs and a bit of cat kibble every now and then...and the next she's a growling inhuman battering ram, shoulder-slamming all creatures who would yearn for a token pat from Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's work-worn hands. I can understand why Juno growls low in her throat from the time she starts eating until the time she is safely back in her high-rent dog house. After all, since she was a starving pup rescued from my mom, the other animals have crowded around her as she ate. Seems that two dogs and five cats purely crave half a can of wet puppy food. But we kept them back. No food was stolen. And that growl from the tiny hank of fur was precious. Now, not so much.

Today I cut up some leftover pot roast. I scraped two hunks into Juno's food pan around on the back porch outside the laundry room, overlooking the pool. I also gave her all the juice on her dry dog food that was still in the pan. And a generous helping of carrots and potatoes soaked in meat drippings. Ann's pan got a single hunk of roast, and some carrots and potatoes. That's because Ann is a sturdy gal. And not as active as Juno.

What did my sweet, sweet Juno do? She ran to Ann's pan and started wolfing down the beef. While growling. I called her over to her own pan. Ann was nowhere in sight. I went back inside, but even in the kitchen, I could hear Juno growling as she ate. The Pony and Farmer H returned from bowling, and The Pony grabbed a box with leftover pizza I had set out of Frig, and went to the door. "Here, Juno!" He tossed it out onto the porch.

"Wait! I was saving that until tonight! Juno is full! She ate a lot of roast and potatoes."

"So THAT is what's wrong with her."

Farmer H went out on his way to the BARn. "She's GREEDY! You should have given it to Ann."

"But Mom always says to give it to Juno!"

Ahem. There are no secrets around this Mansion. About three hours later, as I sat tapping, near to napping, tap tap tapping on my keyboard more...The Pony trotted down the steps to my dark basement lair.

"I don't know what Juno has in the front yard, but it has a leg. At first I thought she was eating a chicken, but then I saw how long it was. I think it's a deer leg."

Sweet, sweet Juno. Fast becoming a combination of Violet Beauregard and Augustus Gloop.

Friday, November 21, 2014

I Think This Is A Bad Omen For Upcoming State Testing In May

Today a kid threw up.

Don't act like that's normal. This is high school we're talking about. Which means that no floor tiles were injured in the making of this post. No special sawdust was sprinkled on the upchuck. The kid came back to the classroom and informed me of her loss.

"What should I do?"

"Go tell the office."

"What are THEY going to do?"

"What am I going to do?"

"I don't want to go to the office."

"Well, sit down, I guess."

"Aren't you going to do anything?"

"I already advised you to go to the office. They will call home. They usually send people home when they throw up."

"I don't want to go to the office. They don't like me. They won't let me go home."

"It's not like they can take your throw-up away from you." Let the record show that throughout this drama, other pupils were shouting, 'Did you flush it? I hope you saved it! Because if you flushed it, they won't believe you.' See? Everybody else seems to know the procedure.

Anyhoo...Chucker went to the office, where they called home, but nobody answered. But that's not the big story. The big story is what went on while she was out of the room. When everybody was supposed to be reviewing for the test I gave this morning.

"Do they still use that sawdust stuff if somebody throws up?"

"They do on the bus."

"Yeah. I remember when that kid threw up in his shoe. He was some Basementia kid. He took off his shoe, and threw up in it. Then he carried it up to the driver, held it out, and said, 'I threw up in my shoe.'"

"What did the driver do?"

"She just looked at him, and said, 'What do you want ME to do about it?' Then we took him home and made him get off the bus."

Of course that did not bode well for study time. A couple of the studiers were downright hysterical. With laughter.

C'est la vie.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Dine And Dash Thursday

WooHoo! Turkey dinner today in the cafeteria. Mrs. Hillbilly Mom even took a TRAY! Which put her forty cents in the hole on her lunch account.

Yes, I have not eaten a school lunch for several years now. But today I broke down, over the smell of wheat rolls baking in an industrial oven. Or roasting on an open fire. Because the fire alarm went off, sending us into the wild chill yonder all willy-nilly, us without coats, unsure of whether we were about to be charred. The kids took off for the softball field, though I stopped them about 50 yards from the building to see if the other teachers were taking their kids all that way. "Guess so," they said. Thank the Gummi Mary a lunchtime companion happened to be visiting that end of the building, and offered to take my old red gradebook and supervise my horde. Her efforts were greatly appreciated, what with this blood-thinner poison eating away at my knee joints. I might have made it to the field, but it is doubtful that I would have made it back. I am terrible on uneven surfaces such as the Mount Everest descent and ascent that would have been necessary.

Anyhoo...the fire that wasn't was after lunch, so I guess the rolls can't be blamed. Funny thing about those rolls. When I read the menu to my class at the end of the announcements, they cheered the turkey and mashed potatoes, but when I got to ROLLS, they booed and hissed. "But that's what smells so good in the hall right now," I emphasized. "You were all just saying how great the hall smells."

"Have you ever had the wheat rolls here?"

"No. I bring my lunch."

"That's why you think they might be good."

I found out what they were talking about. Those things are dry. Like cotton batting. Worse than a McDonald's breakfast biscuit. I daresay I would have choked three times, but for the bottle of water I had at the ready to soak that cotton and wash it on down my throat. Three bites. Three chokes. That wheat roll was out of the rotation. Thank the Gummi Mary I had that water bottle. I sure couldn't swallow the fat-free chocolate milk. Yuck. I found that out when my mom and I went to the biscuit and gravy fundraiser last month.

I hope heads don't roll. The turkey was not a baked bird like we had eons ago when lunch was good. It was turkey medallions, which are chunks of turkey that come in a can with enough brine to choke a horse addicted to salt licks. AND the salt shakers were out again! I am quite sure the children exceeded their allotment of noon-time sodium today.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Mrs. Hillbilly Mom Was Most Certainly NOT Tooting Her Own Horn

Oh, dear. You would not believe the type of atrocities to which Mrs. Hillbilly Mom has been subjected this year. Or maybe you would, if you've ever donned the teacher cap, and rubbed elbows without touching with the early-teenage set.

There I was, minding my own business grading the previous class's work, having presented the lesson and passed out the assignment and subdued the energetic attention-seekers who would rule if I blinked...when it happened.


A fart reverberated off a blue hard-plastic chair like thunder rolling across the hardpan prairie ahead of a thunderstorm.

I raised one eyebrow. Just to show that I KNEW. Because, of course, 21 pupils turned to look at ME. Make that 20. All but the gas-passer. It's not like I needed that bit of evidence to pick him out of the crowd. After all, he had leaned over to let it escape. And he was the third-closest student to my desk. Let the record show that he HAD asked to use the bathroom right before class started. And he was in a panic, because BOTH of the boys' bathrooms were being cleaned. Except they weren't. The custodian was merely standing in front of the one next to my classroom, the bright yellow mop cart blocking the entrance, but no yellow sign declaring "Closed For Cleaning." So Tooter went in and came back appearing refreshed.

But that was not the atrocity. Not even the smell such as might emanate from a rotting skunk carcass after it died from eating too many rotten eggs was the atrocity. No. There was a very special atrocity saved by Even Steven just for Mrs. Hillbilly Mom. Amidst the quiet and the silent stares and my raised eyebrow of resignation there arose two whispers.

"Who WAS that?"

"Mrs. Hillbilly Mom."

And then two ne'er-do-wells in front of Tooter began that Muttley wheezy laugh. OH, NOT-HEAVEN NO!

"That is enough. This is NOT proper classroom behavior, and it is NOT going to continue. I will put an end to this with a discipline referral if you can't control yourselves any better than that."

Silence. Tooter turned around. "I admit it was me. I didn't mean to. I sat wrong. I wasn't trying to do it."

"That's not the main issue. The main issue is that comment of 'It was Mrs. Hillbilly Mom.' I will not have my name brought up like that to disrupt class. I will not stand for it."

Tooter's eyes grew larger. "That part wasn't me. I promise. I would not do that."

"I know that wasn't you. It was one of your buddies in front of you. And it's going to stop right now." Both buddies had turned away quickly and began working more earnestly than they had on all assignments combined since August 14.

Near the end of class, Tooter turned around again. "I would sincerely like to apologize. I did not mean to do that. I am very sorry."

"That's okay, Tooter. I'm not mad at you. You are not the issue here."

Sometimes, you have to take those lemons life gives you, and squeeze them until they feel the pressure.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Squeaky Wheel Is Loaded For Bear

Farmer H took that THIRD NOTICE bill into his own hands today. He had planned to drive down to HIS hospital, where the service occurred, after picking up my mom from HER hospital after her surgery. As Even Steven would have it, Mom was not discharged until 2:00. Not enough time for Farmer H to get her home and hurry to his patient accounts rendezvous. Mom had called him at work around 11:00, to let him know she would be late.

Farmer H called the local hospital and (of course) got a machine. He left what he called, "a not very nice message" about his frustration with the buffoonery of the California office that sends out the statements.

"When I was on the way home with your mom, I got a call back. The lady was super-nice. She asked if I had the check number, and wanted to know what date it cleared the bank. I had to pull off the road to read it to her. She said she'd check on it and get back to me. About 30 minutes later, she called back. She apologized all over herself for the actions of the California office. She said that yes, the hospital ran the check and received the funds. But when the data was entered, two digits in the account number were transposed, and the amount was not credited to my account."

"Oh. So somebody had a credit of $131.33 that they don't deserve, thanks to us."

"Yeah. Somebody is getting a $131.33 credit, thanks to the idiots who can't punch in a number. This lady said that if we ever have ANY problems, come right to them at the local hospital. Don't even mess with the California office. She was SUPER nice."

"Of course she was. She's small-town. For all she knows, you could come in there with a gun and blow them all away. You DID say you left a not-very-nice message. It's not like you're going to drive to California and take it out on them. Don't think they don't go over this stuff in their training. Those California people are probably way up in an office building with armed guards in the lobby. Thus their a$$holery."

"Well, she said to come down there if we have any problems."

"I'll remember that next month when I get the FOURTH NOTICE."

Monday, November 17, 2014

Oh He Called To California With A Paid Bill On His Knee, And He's Going Down To The Hospital, The Bookkeeper For To See

Farmer H is hot to trot! And not in a good way. In the angry way that my best ol' ex-teaching buddy Mabel uses it.

He had just arrived home from a long day taking my mom to the hospital for surgery, and I had just arrived home from a long day of my regular job which included grading 18 assorted make-up assignments due to various school trips and deer hunting excursions. Neither of us was in a mood for suffering fools. Gladly or otherwise.

As I slaved of a hot oven, warming up yesterday's pot roast and whipping up some garlic cheese bread, I opened today's mail.

"I am SICK of this! Here's another bill from your hospital for that test in August. I called them last month when we got the second bill and told them I paid it. The dude said there was no record of a payment. I told him the number of the check that had cleared the bank in September, the very week I received that first bill. And he said they would start a review, and not to do anything now, but I might need a copy of that canceled check if they notified me. So I got right on the phone to the bank, and got that check copy. Here it is. And the note of who I talked to in the California office, which is that number listed on the statement, and what day, and what time, and what he said."

"HM. Don't get all worked up about it. We paid it. We're not paying it again."

"But this ALWAYS happens! Nobody can do their job any more. I pay a bill way before the deadline, and now I'm getting a THIRD notice! For no reason!"

"I'll call them right now."

Farmer H got the phone. I heard him ask for someone. I went back to meal-making. I went to the bathroom and changed my clothes. Farmer H was still sitting in his La-Z-Boy with the phone to his ear.

"I see what they do. They put you on hold so long that they think you'll hang up. Then they don't have to deal with you. Well, I'm not hanging up." A few minutes later, I heard a dial tone. "Yeah. Now they hang up on ME! I'll fix them."

Farmer H dialed again. "Yes. I want to talk to someone about his bill I already paid! NO! I CAN'T hold. I was just hung up on by one of your people after I'd been on hold for fifteen minutes! I want to talk to someone NOW. Here is my account number. I paid this bill. And my wife already called last month to tell you people that it was paid. No. You people ran the check. So you should have a record that it was paid. No. She didn't fax anything. Nobody told her to fax it. NO! I don't WANT my account frozen, because I DON'T OWE YOU A THING! What? What number should I fax it to? No. Wait. Can I just take it down to the hospital here, where I went, instead of dealing with you people in California? Because you don't have a clue what you're doing. Fine! I'll take it to them tomorrow. If THEY tell you that I don't owe anything, will THAT be good enough for your office? GOODBYE!"

Yeah. Farmer H is not one to mince words. I think now that he's had a glimpse into my world, he might understand why I get all worked up.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

I Guess I Shouldn't Really Recommend His Termination

It's been a busy weekend here at the Mansion. As you remember, we kicked it off Friday night with a trivia contest. Saturday morning The Pony and I did the shopping. No sooner did we get our provisions home, unpacked, and stowed away than it was time to take The Pony back to town for his bowling league.

I was pretty tired from my previous 36 hours. Friday had been my duty day at school, plus we had an assembly where I got to stand around for fifty minutes. So I almost decided against stopping by the gas station chicken store for some scratch-off tickets. I had some previous winners with me to cash in. I knew I would regret it if I arrived home with no tickets. So off I went to the station of chicken. I had no intent of buying chicken when I entered the store. Then I smelled that magical aroma. It's been a long time since I partook of the petroleum-seller's fowl. Besides, my lunch at home was going to be braunschweiger on Bunny Bread with mustard and onion. Which meant I had to slice a couple items and squeeze the mustard. That wasn't going to cut the mustard with me, being so tired and all.

I walked past that counter and looked at the chicken case. It appeared fresh enough. There was no chicken picker present. So I almost decided against the crispy greasy goodness. Then the new clerk, a tall, portly skinhead-looking fellow, said, "Do you want something from the kitchen?"

"I'm trying to decide. Okay. Yes. I want to order from the kitchen." He hit the secret buzzer that must do something like shine a light in the batcave to summon the chicken pickers. Then he kept staring at me. I didn't want to tell him to take a picture, it would last longer, because he might actually have whipped out a phone and taken my picture. I was tapping my scratch-off winners on the counter. There was nobody else in the store. "Here. Do you want to take a look at these while there's nobody in line?" I'm all about keeping the clerks out of a jam in case it gets busy. But then that smart-a$$ had to open his mouth and bray.

"Sure. I'll take a look at them. Do you want me to check them for winners?"

"Yes. I want you to check them for winners." A$$hole. The little old chicken picker was as pleasant as could be, but this a$$hole was really getting on my nerves. So much that I made a note not to do business there again when he was working. Even the stern monotone countback clerk would be ten times more acceptable than this a$$hole. Everything he did was like he was mocking me. Like he was secretly a blueblood millionaire, gathering information on how the little people live. I cashed in my tickets and bought more. The a$$hole tossed them on the counter like he was too good to ever buy a lottery ticket. A$$hole.

I took my chicken home and hauled it and the scratch-off tickets down to my dark basement lair. I set aside three tickets to send to the #1 son in a card later in the week. Then I put the others on my stack of winners on top of a Puffs With Lotion box. Mmm. Gas station chicken. I actually had a breast that looked like it came from a chicken, not a quail. I hope that old chicken picker wasn't in trouble for giving me the good stuff. After consuming that tasty bird boob right down to the bone, and the wedge fries that accompanied it, I turned to my tickets. I had a cornucopia of a smorgasbord of scratchers. Loser. Loser. Loser. Three dollars. Four dollars. Five dollars. Five dollars. WAIT A MINUTE! That last one wasn't five dollars. It was five HUNDRED dollars!

Darn that a$$hole all to heck!

It is not fitting that an a$$hole should sell me such a good ticket.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Journey Of A Healthy T-Hoe Begins With A Single Tire Gauge

I declare. Farmer H is trying his darnedest to tick me off. He should really know better, what with me having a hair-trigger tick-off switch.

Last night, Farmer H drove T-Hoe to trivia. It was sponsored by The Pony's NHS club, so we paid to play. We won't go into how our little team of three-and-one-fourth was soundly trounced by the entire rest of the field, including The Pony's team of mere children. Let the record show that Mrs. Hillbilly Mom, Farmer H, Mrs. HM's sister-the-ex-mayor's wife, and the ex-mayor himself do not comprise a very good knowledge base for sports, Disney Movies, or 50 states questions. It did not help that the ex-mayor, a medium-wig with Ameren, was on call and had to leave the room eleventy-billion times to explain to crews how to get where they were needed to restore electricity to parts of a major metropolitan area. Sweet Gummi Mary! You'd think folks could sit in the dark and chill out while Mrs. Hillbilly Mom was playing trivia from 7:00 to 10:00.

Farmer H moved T-Hoe's driver's seat to within three millimeters of the steering wheel. He leaned to one side to emit gas from a Beef Burrito Supreme. He sneezed all over his hand and still took the wheel. On the way home, he started complaining that the side mirror was not aligned to his liking. Even though he had driven all the way to Newmentia with it like that.

"I don't know how you see a thing out of that mirror."

"Oh. I don't use it much. But I can see when the cars are too close behind me at the stoplight."

"It's useless." Said the man who was going forward all the way home, on a two-lane road. It's not like he needed to sweave through rush hour on I-270.

"Fix it how you want."

"I don't know how to do that!"

"Or don't."

"I don't know how you can drive with it like that."

"Well, I drive with a tire that loses a pound of air a day. And brakes that grind and grab when I stop."

"I don't feel anything with the brakes. I can't believe you don't hear that rumble in the bushings."

"I don't know what a bushing is. But I guess there might be a sound. I thought it had something to do with my brakes."

"HM, I can't get them fixed unless I take it to a dealer. That tire is just your sensors gone bad. You need new sensors."

"No Dad. That's the back tires with the bad sensors. The one that shows zero pounds of air, and shows the opposite tires in the readings. And besides, you pull that seat way up, so of course you're not going to see what Mom does out of the mirror."

"I don't know how it can just be the sensors if we put air in twice a week. You'd think that tire would blow up like a balloon and pop with all that air we've put in it since July."

"I don't know how you think I can fix it if you won't drive something else. And I'll need someone to take me and pick me up from the dealer. I can't sit around and wait."

"That's why I told you about it in July. 'I'm getting ready to go back to school,' I told you. 'And I need my car to run.' That's exactly when I told you. But you always had an excuse. I guess we'll keep putting air in it until Christmas break, and hope nothing goes wrong. I asked you to get me a stick gauge for the tires. The Pony can check the air, if you think it's the sensors. I asked for that over a month ago, when you got my headlights, and you said okay. But you never gave me a tire gauge."

"All you have to do is walk over to the BARn and get one off the workbench where all the car stuff is. There's a bunch of them."

REEEEEEEEE! That's the phonograph needle scratching Farmer H's eyes out. Let's get this straight. HE expects MRS. HILLBILLY MOM to WALK to the BARn, and putter around in various workshop areas until she finds a suitable tire gauge? When HE is over at the BARn at least five days a week?


That man is cruisin' for a bruisin', achin' for a breakin', yearnin' for a burnin', yappin' for a slappin', clamorin' for a hammerin', stumpin' for a thumpin', and yippin' for a whippin'.

Friday, November 14, 2014

But It's The Evening Of Mrs. Hillbilly Mom!

Farmer H is at it again. He's horning in on my Farmer-H-free time. Like last night. Bowling night. He gets home late, and The Pony feeds the animals. I left Newmentia early, because I didn't want The Pony to have to feed in the dark, like last week. Because it was 28 degrees when we left school.

I had signed up for a technology class on using some Google something that takes the place of spreadsheets. As you can see, I sorely needed this workshop. But when The Pony told me he wouldn't be staying for Scholar Bowl practice after all, I decided I would leave early. I had every intention of attending. I hurried up with my grading. I grabbed note-taking paraphernalia and headed down the hall, leaving The Pony to watch a movie in my room until I could make an early exit.

Of course I had to stop by the faculty women's restroom on the way. What do you think I am, a camel? There's no storing of water in this beast. So I was afraid I might be late, even though it was five minutes before the festivities were due to start. I've been to three other sessions, and people start trickling in as soon as the bell rings. Then we wait for Elementia folks to arrive. I wanted to make sure I got the same desk near the door.

I hoofed it down the ramp, past the library, and saw that the door was closed with the window blacked out. This happens sometimes. Teachers don't like interruptions. I grabbed the handle. It was unlocked. The door opened. The classroom was dark! Not a single person was in there. So I looked across the hall in the other computer lab. Nope. Only students. Wasn't THAT a fine how-do-you-do? Only this morning I had RSVPed my attendance. I had not received an email that the session was canceled. What gives?

Nose out of joint, I went back to my classroom. Told The Pony I was getting a few things ready for the next day, and we'd be leaving. Mrs. Hillbilly Mom may be stood up once. But not twice.

We headed home by way of Dairy Queen for a chicken basket for The Pony. Farmer H called while I was paying. "Dad says he isn't bowling tonight. He doesn't feel like it. But he doesn't want Dairy Queen. He's coming home." Hmpf! Good thing he didn't want Dairy Queen, because I didn't offer it. The order was already made. He was on his own. It was THURSDAY, by cracky! Mrs. Hillbilly Mom is not responsible for him on bowling nights.

Yep. He arrived home soon after The Pony had fed his animals. "I'm sick. I'm going to bed." Yeah. He's always sick. That means he's restless when I go to bed, and snorts and complains and keeps me from sleeping, after he's already had a full eight hours.

Or the breather spews toxic virus into my nose and gaping mouth while I think I am restoring my health with a good night's sleep.

Farmer H. The horningest horner-inner who ever horned.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Forget The Whaaaambulance, Call The Fire Department

Hey! Have you heard? Mrs. Hillbilly Mom is an arsonist! Uh huh. And maybe there's an award in it for her. Because just this morning, a pupil told her, "You have the best burns ever!"

Let the record show that Mrs. HM is not trying to bruise the tender self esteem of her charges. On the contrary. She is trading barbs. Well. Not so much trading barbs as shooting barbs at weak little fumbling infantile attempts at besting her efforts towards classroom control. Also let the record show that they started it!

Taking attendance is like running a marathon during this particular class period. It helps not that only five girls are interspersed with sixteen adolescent males jousting for superiority. No buffers. It's like Lord of the Flies in there. I would smite them with a bone-crushing bellringer every day, but that would only make more work for me while they pointedly ignored it. I swear they are avid enthusiasts of Roseanne Roseannadanna, because IT'S ALWAYS SOMETHING! Today, for instance...

"Hey! Tex! Put that thing away!"

"Are you looking at your PHONE?"

"What? No! I don't have my phone out."

"Huh. You look like that every day. When you have your phone out. All hunched over. In fact, I'm getting worried about your posture."

"I don't have my phone out. I'm tall. I sit that way so people can see over me."

"Then when I ask what you're doing, you slide your hand in your pocket. Just like now. To put your phone away."

"I'm not putting my phone away. I'm cold! It's cold in here. I was putting my hand in my pocket to get it warm."

"Huh. I thought cell phones heated up when you used them so much. Surely that would keep your hand warm enough to stay out of your pocket."

"Ooh! BURN! You have the best burns ever!"

And...SCENE! Attendance taken. With one mental arm behind my ever-being-broken back.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

It's An Occupational Chronic Affliction That Hits Around This Time Every Year

Whoa. Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's back hurts tonight, my friends. Hurts from bending over backwards, jumping through hoops, and fending off those who would walk all over her. But she plods on, carrying her burden, inching closer all the time to that finish line one and five-eighths years away.

Yes, Mrs. HM looks forward to those days of sleeping in. Of not giving a fat rodent's behind whether somebody who is old enough not to really, really has to go to the bathroom real quick. I swear. This is the oldest group of not-fully-potty-trained youth I have presided over. Ever. And they're not yet able to go two hours without feeding, it seems. Sneaking in purloined cereal tubs from the free breakfast program. And having the audacity to walk right by me with the empty tub to throw it in the wastebasket, after leaving it in the desk yesterday. Two strikes, buddy. Heed the caution flag I threw at you today.

Oh, and it's a mystery that somebody looked up grades, and can't figure out what the assignment marked p a r t i c with a date beside it stands for, but wants to know why he had an F for that grade. Um. Read the description. Oh. You did. Then surely you understand.

And someone else wants to know why he doesn't have a grade for an assignment labeled transfer grade for new student. Just what IS that, anyway? Um. It's a transfer grade for a new student. So if you're not the new student, you will never have a grade for that one. That's why there's nothing by it. No incomplete, no missing, no zero, no dashed line. Nothing. It doesn't pertain to you. But it has to go there or else I have to go back and find every new student at the end of the semester and update their quarter grades unless I put it in that way so it will average automatically.

Then somebody needs to come in after school while hanging around killing time until practice to ask to see his grade. Which can be accessed online if one does not owe any lunch fees. And which can be asked in class on Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's work time, and she will break policy and tell, but not on her unpaid after school time when she is trying to get caught up, after spending her time digging out missing assignments for those who asked, which will never again cross the desk of Mrs. HM, but at least she tried.

Oh. My. Achin'. Back.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Far Be It From Mrs. Hillbilly Mom To Rub Salt In The Wounds Of Those Who Are Smarting

Life is sweet! Mrs. Not-A-Cook, two doors down from my Newmentia classroom, is throwing in the towel in a year and five-eighths, just like Mrs. Hillbilly Mom! While it's nice to have a partner in eventual escape, I hope I don't hurt my back carrying her. Just this morning, she says to me, "Mrs. Hillbilly Mom," she says, "we really ought to have a countdown."

"You mean, like marks on the wall? Or Xs on a calendar?"

"No, I mean like a number of days left that we can see each day."

"Oh, you mean like my best ol' ex-teaching buddy Mabel texts me every morning, even though it means standing out on her deck and holding her iPhone as high in the sky as she can reach so she can get a signal."

"Yeah. How many days are we contracted for? Isn't it 181?"

"I don't think it's that much. I think it's 174."

"I thought that was for the kids."

"I don't know! Now it's time for the bell. Mabel has that all figured out! It's on my phone right now. But I DO know that as of Friday, we will only have one year and five-eighths to go."


"Yeah! Are you not good with fractions?"

Uh huh. It's nice to have someone to count down with, but she's already wearing me out. Luckily lunch time put the bounce back in my step. The starch in my sails. The ball in my court. Yep. The subject of the Semi-Weekly Meeting of the Newmentia Lunch Time Think Tank was...RETIREMENT!

Those young whippersnappers were lamenting how many years they had left.

"I don't think I can make it after only 25 years. The money isn't enough. I'll have to go until 30."

"I'm out at 25. I'll get some other kind of job on the side."

"I don't mind the kids. It's all these hoops we have to jump through. It's ridiculous. That's all we have time for."

"Don't worry. That'll all change again in five years. It always does."

"I will be really old. Because I started later in life. The rule of 80 will get me out when I'm 59."

"I'm gonna keep on doin' what I'm doin'"

"It wouldn't be so bad if I could do something different."

"You mean like librarian? That doesn't seem too hard. All you have to do is keep track of your stuff."

"I don't know if I would like that."

"Yeah. You're a people person. So probably not. But I'm an anti-people person. So I would love it."

"Good luck with that. Our librarian isn't retiring yet."

"Why would she? It's the perfect job."

"I can go at 25 in only 9 years. But I think I'll have to wait until 14."

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye. Adieu, adieu, to you and you and you-ooo. Goodbye. Goodbye. GoodBYYYYYYYE....

Yeah. I didn't even rub it in that I only have one and five-eighths years to go.

Monday, November 10, 2014

We Have Our Own Language In This Here Hillmomban Enclave

Have you heard? Farmer H and The Pony were away from the Mansion for a couple of days. They are most certainly back. It was obvious last evening. The Pony ensconced himself in his indentation on the cushions of the basement couch like he'd never left, and I could hear Farmer H stumping around upstairs on the ends of his tibias and fibulas.

Not only was Farmer H stumping, he was apparently giving a world class exhibition of the Irish jig. And, for good measure, an encore with the Russian Squat Dance.

In fact, up in the living room there arose such a clatter, I sprang from my rolly chair to see what was the matter. Okay. Not really. Mrs. Hillbilly Mom does not spring. But I DID holler to The Pony.

"WHAT was THAT?"

"Oh, it's just the package people."

Let the record show that just before this most recent flurry of loud thumping, I heard Farmer H's cell phone ring. It's quite distinctive. It sounds like a phone ringing. No fancy schmancy ringtones for my man. A phone is a phone, and it should ring like a phone. To say Farmer H lacks imagination is an understatement.

"Package people? Did your dad order a package? Are they here to deliver it? Answer the door!"

"No! The PACKAGE people."

"What? Are they calling him for directions so they can bring the package? I heard him run to the bathroom to get his phone. He sounded like a herd of hippos on stampede."


"Porch people?"

"Yeah. Juno and Ann. That's what I call the dogs. They're wresting on the front porch."

So much for any semblance of normalcy now that my guys are back under the Mansion roof.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Mrs. Hillbilly Mom Is Not Taking The Fall

Hmpf! Mrs. Hillbilly Mom is left home alone to mind the Mansion for two-and-a-half days, and now she's being blamed for mayhem. Mayhem! And I don't mean that dude from the Allstate Insurance commercials.

Where is the thanks she deserves for keeping all the animals alive in the absence of Farmer H? Not forthcoming, that's for sure.

Don't let Mrs. Hillbilly Mom be railroaded toward a conviction! If a trial is called, make sure that you do not shirk your civic duty. Show up bright and early on jury selection day. Campaign for a slot like Gracie Lou Freebush going after the crown at The Miss United States Pageant. And DON'T settle for Miss Congeniality!

Here is the crime of act or omission that Mrs. Hillbilly Mom has been interrogated about:

Yes. That is Farmer H's prize birdbath. He bought it at the auction, of course, and not very long ago. It is a beloved perch for Farmer H's chickens, who do not seem to put any stock in my calls from behind the living room window that it is NOT a chicken bath, and they should hop down forthwith.

As you might imagine, the birdbath held water much better when the rim was not chunked and laid inside itself. Nobody seems to know when this damage occurred. Farmer H demanded to know the weather forecast during his absence.

"Did we have high winds here while I was gone?"

"I don't know. There were 35 mile an hour winds the other day. But I don't remember which day."

"Did you see what happened?"

"No. I do not sit and watch the birdbath. Those chickens are in it all the time. I am not in the habit of sneaking peeks at fowl in the act of bathing. Maybe your turkey was feeling less than fresh, and decided to bathe."

"The whole top of it is in the rock garden. Broken."

"That's too bad. I'm sure you can find another one."

Seriously. The time for bathing has ended. He has all winter to find another birdbath. It's not like his chickens are going to go all Woodstock on him and put on a little stocking cap and skate around the birdbath.

You might notice the details on Farmer H's birdbath. It's made to look like a log, with a squirrel scampering up the side. That's my sweet, sweet Juno's butt in the foreground, and a couple of white chicken bathing beauties in the background. I know that Juno's back looks wide and Ann-like from this angle. The camera adds ten pounds, you know. Besides, Ann has coarse fur and carries her tail high, whereas Juno's silky tresses shine like those of a Miss United States, and she carries her tail low, like a proper lady.

Mrs. Hillbilly Mom will have her story straight by trial time. She will not be hoisted on her own petard. Just because she cheered the leg lamp destruction scene in A Christmas Story does not mean she acted inappropriately with the birdbath. Mrs. Hillbilly Mom will answer questions under cross examination. She already has her defense in order.

"I don't know nothin' 'bout bathin' no birds."

Saturday, November 8, 2014

No Good Deed Goes Un Not-Happymaking

You know what would probably make a teacher really kind of not-happy after school on a Friday afternoon?

If she put off making copies before school because she had only 15 minutes before her duty started, and put off making those copies on her plan time 4th hour because two other teachers had been ruling the Kyoceras the first half of those lunch shifts, and then during the second half, a particularly vociferous fellow had taken up residence at the table in the teacher workroom.

Oh, but the mere act of staying after on a Friday afternoon is not enough to make a teacher really kind of not-happy. Nothing wrong with peacefully setting both Kyoceras in motion with papers for two different subjects, walking from one to the other to take off a stack and insert new originals. Nothing wrong with tearing open a ream of paper and setting it on the little staging table by the restrooms, waiting for one or another Kyocera to run dry. Nope. Nothing related to not-happiness there.

But what might make a teacher really kind of not-happy would be if a newcomer came in carrying a single piece of paper, eyeing the spoken-for Kyoceras. So a teacher using those Kyoceras might politely ask, "Do you need to make a copy?" Because that's what polite co-workers do. "This one here will be done first. If you need to run a copy."

"I have a lot of copies to make." Which may seem like a simple statement of fact, but more likely sounds to that teacher like a passive-aggressive attempt to shame her into giving up a copier.

"I know what you mean. I'm running a lot of copies. It's the first time I could get to the copiers all day." Which establishes that she was here first, and has rightful claim to both of those copiers, because WHO IN THE NOT-HEAVEN COMES IN AT 3:30 ON A FRIDAY TO MAKE COPIES?

"I could let you use this one when that set is done. It seems to be going really slow today." Which is the teacher doing that guy a favor, really. Because in the teacher workroom, possession of the copier is ten-tenths of the law, and a bag of chips.

"It's slow? I really have a lot of copies." Which is that dude alluding to the fact that the kindhearted teacher should actually let him use the fast machine.

"Slow. But it IS working." Which is the teacher sticking it to the dude, thumbing her nose, without the nyah nyah business.

So both parties stand their ground at their respective Kyoceras, neither giving an inch, until the slow Kyocera runs out of paper. And the dude grabs the stack of 500 sheets that the teacher has already unwrapped.

"Oh. Go ahead and use that. I unwrapped it because I knew one of the machines would run out while I was copying." And the dude DOES use it. And acts like the teacher is being all pissy by giving him permission to use a stack of paper he found on the staging table already unwrapped.

A pupil passes by. Looks into the room. Goes past. Comes back. Is invited in by the dude. Makes small talk about maybe he can do it right this time. At which point the teacher, who had no desire to spend personal time in the TEACHER WORKROOM with a STUDENT, notes that the very large stack of copies on the dude's Kyocera is near to blocking the slot that shoots them out.

"Oh. You might want to take some of that stack off. Because sometimes that machine will fold the copy on itself, and then it jams." Which was just the teacher trying to keep that Kyocera from jamming, in case she needed it again later.

"Uh huh. When it's stapling." Which was the dude being a wiseacre to impress the student.

Yeah. That's exactly what would make a teacher kind of not-happy on a Friday afternoon.

Friday, November 7, 2014

We're Not All That Keen On Competing

Mrs. Hillbilly Mom is tired tonight, my friends. Tired. Like a marathoner named Jean-Paul trying to awake in time to make it to the starting line.

Tired of trying to fill everybody's coffers with sunshine, lollipops and rainbows. Let the record show that the coffers designated to Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's class came up empty.

Last week a contest was announced. A contest to provide foodstuffs for a dinner being held next week in honor of individuals who served our country. Each teacher's first hour class was challenged to bring in items worth various points. The class with the highest point total per person would win a prize. An unspecified prize.

That was the problem, methinks. My class was not a band of gung-ho youngsters bent on winning for the honor alone. Nope. My class consisted of seasoned veterans in the contest wars.

"What's the prize?"

"How do we know if we want it?"

"It better not be anything crappy."

"What if we don't even want the prize?"

"What do we have to bring?"

"Here. I'll post the list on the bulletin board. Some items, like coffee and bacon, are worth 10 points each. Then there are five-point items, like large cans of pumpkin, or pie shells. And one-point items, like cans of beans, or boxes or bags of stuffing. Take a look at the list. We have from Monday until Friday to bring them in."

So...on Monday I reminded them.

"Oh. Was that this week?"

Tuesday, I reminded them.

"Oh, yeah. I need to bring something."

Wednesday, I reminded them.

"How long do we have?"

Thursday, I reminded them that Friday was the last day.

"You mean tomorrow?"

This morning, I walked into the classroom after the tardy bell and looked around. "I'm just looking for that pile of food that you guys brought in for the contest."

"Wait. That was due TODAY? I thought it was for closer to Thanksgiving."

"Well. The veterans will be eating nothing on Monday evening, so I don't think they're going to care if you bring in food for Thanksgiving."

Yep. My class total was ZERO points per person. The only way it could have been lower was if they brought in food, sat in class and ate it, and then scammed some from another class and ate that, too, leaving an IOU.

The prize is breakfast next Wednesday. Let the record show that the origin of the upcoming breakfast was not revealed. It could be a culinary masterpiece whipped up for the winners by the students of Basementia.

Not that it will matter to my ZERO percenters.