Gambling with Grandpa

My grandpa is a bit of a gambler. He doesn’t have the opportunity to get out every day, as he doesn’t drive. He uses a walker for stability. And he has discretionary cash to lose. These three elements — shut-in too often, lack of proper mobility, and the need to push colorful buttons and yell, “Come on, gimme somethin’!” — combine in a perfect storm every weekend. Whomever darkens his door first, ding ding ding…they’re driving.
This Sunday, I was the willing chauffeur. Beautiful  blue skies, nearly cloudless, and a January-balmy sixty-five degrees made for a perfect half-hour drive to the prairie-encased, pretty-on-a-hill casino.
Grandpa filled me in on the newness and goings on of the destination. “They have a new part,” he gushed. “It’s smoke-free.”
Gambling and cigarettes have forever seemed an inseparable duo, but what did I know? I don’t have either habit, though Dr Pepper and I are longtime friends and I’ll likely never write the good doctor off.
Never one to question Grandpa but dwelling firmly in the realms of reality, I downed a Zyrtec, a Sudaphed, and a Chlor-Trimeton. (I’m a bit sensitive to the blue haze of burnt tobacco and not willing to endure anaphylactic shock, flailing on carpet, new or not, of anywhere at all.)
After a chatty, fun drive to the grassy plains of Pretty Much Nowhere, I drove us into a small parking lot shaded by the Big House, the Main Casino, the Smoker’s Haven, according to Grandpa. Plus, the lot where we sat was connected to a gas station, should I have ethanol needs. Convenient.
I tried to ignore the small lemming-like stream of folks entering the convenience store empty-handed and exiting with packs bearing the names Marlboro and Camel as they flowed back in through the front doors of the “new part” of money-making heaven.
“We’re gonna win a million,” Grandpa crowed as we walked through the swishing doors into an impenetrable fog that my elderly grandpa did not notice.
Not one to squash a gambler’s hopes, I followed my gramps into the unknown.
First, he has favorite machines. While I got a Player’s Card — I feel so official — he waved at me from his seat, a perch next to a mysterious slot machine boasting “Big Wins! Extra Wild Cards! Special Bonus Games!” amid a bank of thirty others proclaiming the same.
At last I settled into the seat, ready to make Grandpa proud!
Did I win? Absolutely not. With every slap at the “Play Again!” button, my Grandpa begged the tech wonders of the Temple of Prosperity, “Come on, let her win!”
His positive outlook never changed. He was sure the next push would be the Big One.
Finally, a twenty-dollar bill depleted as Ra, or whomever the main character was in that video game, laughed at my misfortune. He disregarded my sadness at disappointing my grandfather just like Grandpa ignored the wafts of smoke curling across his frustrated pate.
“I’ll try another machine,” I declared, scooting out of the seat so he could claim it. His eyes never left the screen, even as he pulled another twenty out of his pocket and muttered, “It’s just gotta warm up.”
For the next hour, I sat a few seats away — peeking toward Grandpa between plugs to make certain he was still upright, ever at the offending machine — behind the wheels of a slot machine that actually paid me for my time. While the slots hit good things, and noises abounded, embarrassing the crap out of me while I inspected every inch to find a Volume button, I won over a thousand coins a handful of times — never mind that the winnings were in pennies — and managed to win Grandpa’s twenty back. I was quite proud.
So I cashed out and presented Grandpa with the triumphant return of his seed money.
“Oh, good,” he beamed. “You won! You pick the next one!”
And before I knew it, we were off to another bank of equally obnoxious, brightly-lit, Disney-would-be-proud-of-the-animation video machines, all more than willing to take my pennies.
Methodology is key to gamblers of the slot variety. Wipe the screen, push all the buttons, check the pay tables, cash in/cash out, whisper, play two machines at once, bet big/bet low, all sorts of talismans for luck at higher-stakes-than-I’m-accustomed video gamer-y.
My method? Whatever Grandpa wanted.
For three hours we scooted from one chair to the other — only one bathroom break and only one trip to the soda fountain (so dry in a casino; who knew?) — pushing buttons and muttering and ruing all things arcade-like.
At last, we’d had our fill. Allergens had stayed back; I’d run from smokers who sat next to me as quickly as my Cash Out button would allow. We hadn’t “lost,” according to Grandpa, “They just weren’t hitting.” And we strolled back into the sunshine down only about twenty bucks between us. I mentally checked that 20 off as Entertainment Expense. Grandpa called it “Nearly Broke Even” and seemed happy.
Rolling back into The City, clouds appearing, winds cooling, he asked, “When was the last time you did that?”
I reflected. “Hmmm…I think it was the 1900’s.”
He laughed.
I love to hear him laugh.
When do we go again? Whenever Grandpa wants.

Hen Talk

The other day I was mildly complaining about the laborious Chicken Routine I follow each and every morning. Specially: modified boots (their soles are, in my mind, poop-infested; whether it be a fact or not, I don’t know, and I’m not investigating, thus they are forever my Chicken Boots), gigantic yellow coat ironically filled with down (though I don’t point this ticklish feature to my ducks; I’m not cruel), fill the Chicken Pitcher (yes, that’s a thing in this house) with tap water because the outside taps are winterized (they have essentially towels wrapped around them to protect them; it’s true science right there), and grab a Cup of Stuff, meaning whatever scraps or bits or food I want to give the birds.
Even though I’m sweating already and done with the birds before laying an eye upon them, THEN I go outside; dump the stuff; pour the water; gather the eggs, Scurry inside. De-wardrobe. Re-wardrobe in Proper Work Attire. Make-up if I must.
This particular morning I had not been rewarded with eggs. And my companion said, “You get eggs?”
I blinked. “Yes. But not today.”
“You get eggs in winter?”
Oh, this is a thing, I remark to myself. “Okay, why is that strange?”
“Because…” and here she spluttered. My fellow chicken rancher spluttered. “They don’t lay eggs in the winter. You gotta go to the store.”
“Well…” I started and stopped. I scratched my head, then said, “I don’t know what to tell you.”
I didn’t let her in on my Magical Skills, which I think include a heat lamp and oyster shell. As it turns out, I’m giving credit to my latent Rancher Gene for my intuitive insight into chicken rearing. Read that as: Wow! I’m inordinately lucky! (Except for the ducks. They don’t do anything but poop and squawk and shed their pretty feathers, which is their only redeeming quality.)
Who knew?
So this morning I went out for the Chicken Routine and to my surprise, I found three eggs awaiting me, so I forgave Old Red for her new habit of grabbing at me with her claws and pecking my hands when I feed her. I seethe, yet soothe, with “Nice birdy,” seeping from between my clenched teeth. She’s giving you eggs, I forever tell myself.
But I must say, even with all my Chicken Whisperin’ skills, that besides understanding the phrases “hen pecked,” and “mad as a wet hen,” (tiny bit of retaliation on my part there, I’ll admit), light was shed on the phrase “Stick ‘er in the pot.”
Yeah. I have another whole perfectly good hen who doesn’t hurt me. I could make do with only one egg a day.


Southern Titles to Read this Year — I have a list

Today — less than an hour ago, in fact — I acquired a list of books written by Southern authors, and I have challenged myself to read all items on the list.
The list enumerates 18 books, so my “one a month” theory is gone. (Librarians stink at math, but even I, illiterate in math, know I have 12 months each year in which to read.)
Thus, I changed “one a month” to “one every three weeks” but ‘cept I have to read one a week for the last three weeks — no matter that it’s the middle of the Christmas season (I’ll have loads of extra time; always do; I read best under pressure) — but we’re now firmly ensconced within the fourth week of the year, so one hour in, I’m already a week behind in my self-applied challenge.
And while finding copies of the shortest of the Southern Titles list to read quickly so as to get back on track with my challenge, I found 44 more books I want to read.
Which kind of pushed my self-inflicted reading-palooza out the door…
So now my NEW challenge for this, the second hour, is to get myself back on track for my FIRST challenge.
Whew. I’m exhausted and I haven’t even swiped a page.

“Why a SEAHORSE?” you might wonder…because my favorite author was a Southern writer who wrote often of the beach, the water, the tide…don’t remember him mentioning a seahorse, but they’re such perfect critters that I’m sure he thought fondly of them. And I thought fondly of him. Thus, the seahorse.
Makes perfect sense.

Screaming on the Prairie

cropped-IMG_20160608_080120-1.jpgRecently, an officer of the Out There knocked at my door at nine in the evening.
It was a typical Monday evening. The Bubs and I had camped in bed and pulled out a fresh Rick Riordan book to devour before sleep.
I didn’t hear the doorbell or a knock. Instead, I was alerted to the presence of an Unknown by the rangy trio of canine critters that rule my dwelling. They barked.
Here’s the thing: at nine p.m. on the prairie, visiting is not a Thing. Most rural dwellers are armed to the teeth, and no one approaches a door unannounced, not even on Halloween. Especially then, perhaps, as all visitors are dressed as something villainous, sketchy at best, and holding bags for loot. My Bubs and I instead attend Fall Parties for our miniature candy bars. Much safer.
Returning to my story.
I grabbed the most vicious of the three dogs, scooped him into my arms–he’s a great deterrent; no one nears when he’s in my hands, growling and showing teeth, though he rides through life only three inches above the ground and looks more gremlin than pup–and opened the door.
There he stood. A policeman. With his hand perched above his weapon, and not euphemistically.
“Yes, sir?” I asked as I strolled casually out the door to meet the officer where he stood. He backed a couple of inches, so I stopped.
“Everything alright, ma’am?”
“Yeah,” I quipped. I was a little bewildered. “I’ve got Netflix and I’m wearing yoga pants, what could be wrong?”
I heard crickets. Literal crickets. Humor doesn’t fly with men in uniform.
I sobered quickly and assumed an interested gaze.
“Yes, ma’am,” he replied. (And I’d swear he backed another inch or so, but that may have been my imagination.) “We got a call from a neighbor that a woman was screaming from inside this home.”
I blinked.
“Which neighbor?” I asked.
His turn to blink.
“Uh, well, it was the one two houses down.”
“Really?” I queried.
Again, the cop nodded.
“I didn’t think they cared!” I gushed. “That makes me feel good.”
Honestly, I’ve said twelve words to that neighbor, and that was only because my big dog may have perhaps possibly sort of kind of tried to kill their cat which stumbled around on only three legs and had half an ear missing and a stringy tail. If anything, my dog was curious, as any critter would be; a fuzzy rat-looking thing pivoting in circles? Come on. That’s an oddity worthy of investigating. He wouldn’t have killed the cat. Most likely.
But that verbal exchange was over three years ago.
“They care that I’m screaming? Aw! I’m gonna bake them a batch of cookies…”
“To be clear, ma’am, you are not in distress?”
“No! I’m good!” For a moment I inspected the officer’s face. He seemed familiar, like I’d seen a picture of him somewhere…in a local bird shop…and he was covered in macaws… “Hey, you’re the bird guy!”
I swear he backed another foot.
“Yeeeeeesss…” he responded warily.
“I saw your picture at the bird store! Macaws? Green ones? Maybe blue?” I realized I was shaking my pointer finger at him, like that would help him remember his own pets.
“Yeeeeesss…” he repeated. “And there’s nothing wrong, here, in the house?”
“Nope, I’m good! Just gonna go bake for the neighbor.”
I smiled stupidly; he questioned my sanity. And then I remembered why he was at my door. “Oh, so the screaming? Probably a coyote, you think?”
“Yeeeeesss,” he said yet again, this time not as warily as wearily, and his hand move away from his gun. “You have a good night.”
“You, too, thank you!” And I waved into the dark as he left.
I turned back into the house, shooing the other two mangy beasts away from my feet, and there stood my Bubs, just inside the foyer. (Hey, prairie dwellings have foyers; we’re cultured like that.)
“I told you to stay away from the door,” I scolded as I put the pekingese down to resume his verbal onslaught of the officer now backing from the driveway to tell who-knew-what-story to the boys in the station.
“I wanted to make sure you were okay.”
Aaaaw! Now I need to make two batches of cookies!
So much love in the tall grasses.
I hope that coyote found love, too.