Click any letter for a look at my prize-winning essay from the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition. You don't even have to buy a vowel.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Let's Play Chicken

It’s not that my son is a picky eater; it’s just that he’d starve to death before the noon rush at any grocery store in America.

He once perused the morning buffet at a luxury hotel restaurant (We have teenage boys. To us luxury means any hotel that doesn’t make us pay a security deposit when we check in.)for three quarters of an hour before demanding to be taken to McDonald’s. Nothing says Breakfast of Champions like a McBiscuit with the outside crust peeled away.

His specifications are exact. He does not eat ugly food.

Ugly food is defined as any food that comes in contact with any other food or food-like item during its processing or preparation. Therefore my kitchen is under constant supervision. It’s like living with a member of the Board of Health who doesn’t clean his room or brush his teeth until threatened with government action.

“Mom,” Son #2 peered in the pot of steaming, frothing liquid and wrinkled his nose. “Are you boiling chickens again?”

“Sure am.”

“Didn’t you just boil a chicken at aunt KJ’s house this weekend?”

“Yes, I was helping her out in the kitchen.”

Son 2, in disgust, “Do you have some sort of addiction to chicken boiling?”

“Jeffrey, I’m going to make chicken salad.”

“Are you sure this isn’t some kind of cult ritual or something?”

“I’m sure. Back away from the chicken. It needs to boil another hour.”

“Do we need to have an intervention?”

“No. This is not a bizarre ceremonial rite. You have to stew it before you can make other things with it.”

“Like what? Some sort of nasty chicken potion to smear on your victims? Does it eat their flesh? You know, like zombie chickens.”

“Son, if you don’t like chicken salad, you don’t have to eat it.”

“You’re trying to trick me. You’re going to feed me some kind of boiled chicken serum to make me do your will.”

“That’s ridiculous. I create the potion for making you do my will out of the parts I take out of the chicken.”


“Like the heart.”

“Are you lying?”

“Yes, I am. I’m not going to waste a perfectly good bird just to make you obey me. Besides, it doesn’t work.”

He pondered this tidbit. “That’s because I’m not eating it. I shouldn’t even be breathing in the fumes. They’re probably poisonous. Or hallucinogenic.”

I didn’t know words with that many syllables until I was in college. “There are pizzas in the freezer. I don’t care if you eat chicken salad or not.”

Where’s the feet? Are you wearing a chicken claw around your neck?”

“For goodness sakes. That’s the Mother’s Day necklace you and your brother gave me. The pictures are a little fuzzy, that’s all.”

“Sure, Mom, if that’s your real name. I’ll be wanting to see some identification at dinner.”

“Get out of the kitchen.”

“Oh, now you’re worried, aren’t you? You’ll probably try and disguise the chicken in my food.”

All the boy eats is frozen pizza and Captain Crunch. It’s hard to disguise chicken parts as rogue Crunch Berries.

“That’s right. Beware of anything you eat or drink. It may be contaminated with chicken broth.”

“That’s it. I’m making a pizza.”

It’s amazing how people who won’t eat freshly thawed meat by-products will roast a frozen, artificially colored and flavored disc to a golden brown and slam it down like filet mignon just because it says pizza on the box.

I think I’ll make some chicken soup. They say it cures what ails you. And in this case what ails me is a free-range teenager who’s chicken to try new food.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Polar Caps to Cold Feet

As a woman who can no longer figure her age without the aid of a scientific calculator, a sheaf of graph paper, and a Number Two pencil, I completely understand the concept of global warming.

I've just hit the half century mark and I don’t break out the sweaters and scarves unless ice is forming under my fingernails. Mother Earth has got me beat by a few decades, give or take a period of conquering hordes, a roving band of dinosaurs, and a Crusade or two. I figure tornado-force winds come from her fanning herself to keep cool.

In my younger years I was the first in the neighborhood to break out the faux fur and firewood, but these days my polar cap is melting at a rapid rate, which is the only explanation I can find for my humid hairstyle and damp T-Shirt. If I had to hold the heat of all the people on Earth, there would be a spike in the number of new oceans, not to mention some even greater lakes, and not a small increase in tributaries. All of these new bodies of water would spring to life in the wee hours of the morning accompanied by a good bit of tossing and turning and 37 trips to the bathroom.

It's odd, though, how the temperature of the whole is greater than the degrees of the parts. My behind is the permanent victim of Chinook winds and my feet are wedged firmly in an Antarctic ice floe. But I wear the Equator like a halo above my sweatsoaked brow.

I don’t really mind the aging process. The popping of my joints makes for a lively rhythmic beat to keep me from napping at my desk in the afternoons, and I’ve become accustomed to wandering from room to room searching for a clue as to what I was looking for in the first place. But if Mother Earth is ahead of me in menopause years, I can understand why history repeats itself.

She lost her place and had to start over.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

None if by Foot

In light of the fact that police officers in Wellford, South Carolina are now forbidden to chase suspects upon director order of the mayor, the Honorable Sallie Peake, I have taken the liberty of composing a questionnaire for wrongdoers who find themselves in need of justice. This way anyone engaged in crime-committing for fun and profit can arrest themselves and save the city the trouble they’re having with nasty Workers Compensation complications when police officers get hurt in the line of duty.

Dear Mr. or Mrs. [Name Spelled Wrong] or Current Resident:

You may or may not have already committed a crime! As a service, the City is providing you with this handy questionnaire to determine if you are due a penalty.

In the past six months have you or anyone in your family or gang been involved in one or more of the following nefarious activities:

Wearing socks that didn’t match
Chewing gum in class
Failing to stop for a school bus
Robbing a liquor store with or without the aid of a springloaded comb that looks like a switchblade
Sashaying out of the A&P with a pack of Ribeyes stuffed in your pants and a bottle of A-1 in your back pocket
Other: _________________

If so, you may be eligible for a fine. Walk, don’t run to the nearest police officer and complete the prison record application, or visit the public usage computers at your local library to find the online form. You may also call the toll free number printed on the back of every can of Bud Light sold in the city limits. Call now. Operators are standing by! (Unless they’re on break because Lurlene is in a snit about somebody stealing her lunch from the break room refrigerator again.)

For this week only, we’re offering specials on vandalism and petit larceny. Call before naptime and exchange your monetary fine for community service work. There are always important public service tasks to be done. After all, the mayor’s car doesn’t wash itself!

Now that you don’t need to waste precious time running from the law, you will probably find extra hours in the day for graffiti-related and other crimes. It may be difficult to find value-added activities due to the fact that the city has few opportunities for employment. After all, not everyone has the talent required for a position at the gentlemen’s club. Remember--a career in the performance arts requires years of dedication and commitment to function at professional levels. Our mayor enforces the hospitality tax to support this important level of initiative. In the meantime, if you indulge in spray paint art to pass the lonesome pre-dawn hours, be sure to add your name and address in the upper left-hand corner of your work so that your notice of incarceration will find its way to the appropriate place.

If increased criminal activity has taken up all your spare time, please contact the city to find out how you can benefit from our new Arrest Yourself policy. You may even be interested in becoming a part of our stationary police force and learn to fight crime by standing still. Drop by Town Hall today, You’ll be glad you did! But remember: don’t run. The mayor is the only one still authorized to chase bad guys!

(Click on the title of this post for an exciting link to a YouTube video of the mayor in action!)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sugar Tit or Bust

Today in my inbox the Smithsonian, a magazine of knowledgeable and intellectual pursuits, offered me a once in a lifetime opportunity to win a Kentucky Cultural Getaway.

I might be speaking out of turn, but to me a Kentucky Cultural Getaway is about the same as taking a luxury tour down to the 7-11 store in Sugar Tit, which isn’t too far from here but a good ways from Punkintown and has various cultural sights of its own including a brand spanking new left turn lane and a harvested hay field. Once a buffalo got loose and strolled down the highway past the red light there, but that’s extracurricular stuff that you can’t count on as a regular enough occurrence to list in a travel brochure. You don’t want to disappoint tourists that show up looking for livestock during a non-migratory period.

I realize I might be biased about cultural events. I come from South Carolina, the land where classical music means anything you can dance the shag to. Relationships here aren’t considered consummated until the couple has shagged together in public on at least one occasion with a minimum of two sober witnesses, neither of which are related to either party by blood or prison record. It’s not always as easy as it sounds.

Culturally speaking, this is an area where the orchestra string section is a man named Skeeter who wears unbuttoned overalls, a Charlie Daniels Band T-Shirt, and a Nascar cap, and who will die with less teeth than he was born with, having lost several a la carte sets climbing into tree stands on pre-dawn hunting expeditions or on across the county line liquor excursions. Skeeter is perched on a ladderback chair leaned back on two legs in the corner of the local hardware store, playing the banjo like Michelangelo paints ceilings.

Although we have our own Steeple Chase race right up the road and offer advanced degrees in tailgating at the local community college, I don’t often get a chance to visit parts of the country where your place in society is determined by the size hat you wear to a horse race, so I checked out the information on this Kentucky Cultural Extravaganza. And since I never turn down a chance to improve my quality of life, I’m willing to take one for the team and check out the Jim Beam factory.

However I have to draw the line at the expedition to the National Quilt Museum that is included in the package. That handmade stuff can get pricey and I don’t want to have to auction off my collection of glow-in-the-dark velvet Elvis paintings on eBay to raise money for this trip.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Desperately Seeking Something

Because I don’t spend enough time looking for things in my daily life, I bought a word search puzzle book. The idea is to find and circle words that are hidden inside a box with a bunch of unalphabetized letters, which is good because finding the other kind would be too much like filing. Word Search is like a scavenger hunt only you don’t have to go next door to your spooky neighbor’s house asking for a kitchen knife or a set of hot curlers.

My first search was for a pencil. Ever the optimist, I looked in the cup on my desk. I found four broken blue crayons, two fountain pens with no ink, and a petrified Milkbone. I briefly thought about trying to use the Milkbone, but the Dachshund is possessive and I’m pretty sure she can take me in a fight. She is not known for fair play.

I looked under the sofa cushions, in the glove compartment of the car, and in my jewelry box, where I found the safety pin I needed last week for an unbecoming wardrobe malfunction. Later that afternoon while doing the laundry, I found a pencil stub in the lint trap of the dryer. The eraser was melted, but if we wait for all our blessings to come at once there will be nothing left for the Rapture, so I forged ahead.

I sat down with my puzzle book and my pencil stub. Immediately I found several words. None of them were in the word list and I’m not sure that all of them were English. At least one of them made the dog blush. Perhaps I needed an eraser after all. I scratched out my ineligible answers with the safety pin and circled a likely looking word using all the letters on one side of the puzzle. If this were Scrabble, I could clinch the victory with a Q and an unabridged dictionary.

About that time the Dachshund tackled me in an announced Milkbone raid and broke the point of my pencil stub. So now I’m off to search for the pencil sharpener. But that’s okay. I haven’t found any more words to circle anyway. I think I’ll write to Vanna and ask to buy a vowel.

Wonder where I can find her address?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Thanks for No Memories

It’s nice to know that, having lived for half a century, I’ve attained royal status. After all, you like to feel like you’ve accomplished something besides housebreaking the puppy and making sandwiches for four million school lunches during all those years.

Among my set, I’m known as the Post-It Queen. My subjects are thousands of brightly colored sticky notes that remind me not to forget to get gas, pick up the dog at the vet, or buy more sticky notes.

It’s not that my memory is fading, it’s. . .well I’ve forgotten exactly what it is, but I have a plastic tiara on my desk to remind me of what counts. Actually, it can be quite beneficial to be forgetful, particularly when it comes to lunches with people you don’t really care for or foolish promises you’ve made to small children.

However, I read in the paper a while back, I can’t recall exactly when or which one, about a lady that remembers everything, and I mean everything, about her life, from the time she was about eight years old. I don’t envy her. There are things I did when I was eight years old that I would just as soon remain shrouded in the mists of time or at least hidden behind the hot pants at the back of the closet.

Also you have to wonder. Does she ever misplace her car keys or does she just have to remember back to juggling all those grocery bags when she came in and march right back to find them still hanging in the lock?

Does she have to relive that awful time in junior high when she tucked her dress into the back of her pantyhose during the bathroom break after sixth period and strolled down the front hall to the gymnasium affording everyone from the substitute shop teacher to the assistant principal a view of her flowered Fruit of the Looms?

Personally if I have to choose, I’d rather rely on a Hello Kitty sticky note that says Buy Buns than have instant access to every memory that I created before I became royalty. Hindsight may be 20/20, but there are times I’d rather lose my glasses for good than see the flooded toilets and wardrobe malfunctions I’ve left in my majestic wake.

But I would like to know what happened to my car keys.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Repeating Offender

I’m sitting at the computer with the family dog curled up lovingly at my feet, his paws twitching as he dreams of wild bunny chases through a sunlit meadow, and all I know is that Glade doesn’t make a scent like what just crawled up the leg of my stretchy pants and smacked me in the face.

I don’t know why a family cookout should affect him this way. Either there’s something about my Uncle Joe’s aftershave that doesn’t agree with him, or else a random bite of Oscar Mayer’s finest translates into the signature scent that is presently hovering in a cloud of noxious fumes that untied my shoelaces, ate holes in my socks, and made my perm go flat.

Fanning the air furiously with my computer mouse, I have to admit the air freshener people may be on the right track. They can churn out everything from baby powder to laundered linen, but there’s probably not a staggering demand for a wall mounted dispenser in paralyzing rotten cloud scent. Every thirty minutes it would emit a spray that fogs your windows, eats the color off the linoleum, and kills your houseplants. With enough propulsion it could also deter burgulars and discourage free range inlaws from dropping in unexpectedly.

As it is, I’m thinking of checking online for a HazMat suit to wear when spending quality time with the resident Labrador. Sure it cuts down on personal contact, but really, if it’s quality that counts, then safety gear is essential.