Ragdoll Cat (Temporarily)

“Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. — Herman Melville

When it’s November, I give thanks summer is over and 100-degree weather temporarily behind us.

This November I gave thanks for the veterinarian.

While was in Dallas at a writing conference, David noticed symptoms of diabetes and took Ernest in for confirmation and treatment. I asked how he got the cat into the carrier. “With great difficulty,” he said.

After I returned home, we took him back to the doctor for gastric problems related to his new dietary regimen. The next day, he seemed to be in worse shape, so we took him back. Because he doesn’t like injections any more than he likes the carrier, we hadn’t been able to give him insulin, so that afternoon, before releasing him, the vet gave him a shot.

That night about midnight, in the dark, I stepped on a furry mass beside the bed and turned on the light. Guess who. Ernest. That was a surprise, since he usually sleeps under the bed. When I picked him up, another miracle occurred—he tolerated it. He doesn’t like to be picked up and held either. He  felt like a rag doll. David rubbed honey on his gums, and we headed for the animal ER/hospital (where he went several years ago after eating thread).

By the time we arrived, his blood sugar was 25, so he stayed for an IV and monitoring. At dawn–6:00 a.m., but it felt like dawn—we took him back to our vet for further monitoring. At 5:00 p.m, on the vet’s advice, we delivered him to the hospital for 24 to 36 hours of monitoring. The vet who had given him the insulin was amazed his glucose plummeted like that. The next afternoon, we picked him up.

Over the next two days, I functioned as a lap.

He’s doing well now. We hoped his diabetes could be controlled by diet, but he’s taking injections from David as if they’re no big deal. We watch him for hypoglycemia.

I don’t know whether I could inject him. He and David have always been buds. David is calm, so in David’s sphere, Ernest is calm. I energize him, so he marches around on me and sits on the arm of the chair and pulls on my sleeve. To give him his due, he’s learned to “liiiiiieeeeeeee dowwwwwwwwwwwn” after hearing me plead not too many times. But he has no intention of learning, “Stop pulling on my sleeve.”

On the topic of energy, since retiring, I’ve realized I energized my students, too, more’s the pity. They didn’t need energizing.

Anyway, November, to me, will always be The Month of the Hypoglycemic Cat.

And on a less alarming note, the The Month It Is Cooler, and in 2019, Damp and Drizzly, and Sometimes Even Rainy, Which is Nice.

*

I shouldn’t say this, lest it embarrass him, but in the hospital, Ernest’s legs were shaved so veins could be accessed, and now he looks like a 1950s lady wearing a fur coat with three-quarter sleeves and gauntlet gloves.

Note the elegant tilt of the head.

 

 

The Great Throwing Away or, The Great Unearthing: Toy

“One of the advantages of being disorganized
is that one is always having surprising discoveries.”

~ A. A. Milne

Some of my surprising discoveries during the Great Throwing Away didn’t surprise me, because I knew they were there, waiting to be unearthed. One of those takes me back to the summer I was eight, when my grandmother, Mary Veazey Barrow, spent a month in Del Rio with my family. (To prevent confusion, Veazey was her maiden name.)

For a week—it might have been a weekend, but I like to think it was a week—my oldest cousin, Mary Veazey Worden, came from Houston. Those two women were funny, and with my mother in the mix, everything was hilarious. They were more entertaining than any of my child-friends ever could have been.

We (they) spent much of the week making aprons. I don’t know why. I think the material came from feed sacks. I don’t know where we got it, considering we were living in a city and had no farm animals. I presume my mother had saved it from our years in a minute country town. She’d made me several play suits from chicken feed sacks in a green and white pattern. They were comfortable, attractive, and sturdy, and were probably handed down to some smaller child when I outgrew them. Few things last longer than a feed sack.

The highlight of the month was a day trip across the Rio Grande to Piedras Negras.

My family usually went to Ciudad Acuna, only three miles from home. I loved Acuna, because for seventy-five cents, I could buy a ring. The first time I went there, when I was seven, my parents footed the bill, so I bought maracas and a puppet whose strings I never managed to untangle. They bought me a leather jacket with fringe. The maracas weren’t popular at home because I insisted on shaking them, but I loved the coat. It was soft and warm. I felt quite cowboyish in it.

I despised it, however, the Halloween my mother made me wear it over my princess costume. The night was chilly and probably fell into her category of “I’m cold so you have to bundle up,” but it ruined the effect I wished to project. Clad in a long, glittery dress and scraping along the asphalt in high heels enhanced by fur-covered elastic bands across the toes, I felt elegant and feminine, two qualities that usually eluded me. Wearing the cowboy jacket, I felt like Gabby Hayes in drag. Even a bag of chocolate didn’t console me. After sixty-two years, the disappointment is still palpable.

But back to Piedras Negras. Situated across from Eagle Pass, it was larger than Acuna and offered shoppers more variety.

The shopping didn’t make much of an impression, except that we covered a lot of territory, and that we didn’t have lunch until we got back on U. S. soil. My parents had a thing about not eating in Mexico, even though some of our neighbors ate at Acuna’s Crosby Hotel, and others went to the dentist over there.

But the toy is a happy memory. My grandmother bought one for each of her four younger grandchildren. I don’t think she bought them for the older three, although she might have gotten one for Mary Veazey, because although twenty-something, VZ was nevertheless younger than the rest of us.

Why is the toy memorable? Because for the entire hour’s drive back to Del Rio, Mary Veazey and I sat in the back seat and tried to get the little wooden ball into the little wooden cup. My grandmother (who once amazed the grandchildren by trying out a hula hoop in the living room) took several turns herself.

The feat isn’t easy, and it’s made more difficult by the little wooden piece, which attaches the handle to the cup, sticking up a half-inch in the middle. It’s a wonder we didn’t hit someone, including ourselves, in the head. We shrieked a lot. I’m sure my father’s hearing aid magnified it, but he didn’t complain. He never did.

I tried the toy a few minutes ago. Getting the ball into the cup takes more skill, and luck, than I remembered. It takes considerable force to swing the ball high enough to get the cup under it. I fear my right triceps has deteriorated. Well, I know it has.

About the eating thing. Years ago, David and I spent Christmas Eve in Ciudad Acuna, moving from cafe to cafe, eating tacos—real ones, not Tex-Mex. In the evening, we walked by the Crosby Hotel, which had no vacancies, and saw through the windows the dining room, white tablecloths, small red poinsettias at the center of each table. Beautiful.

The hotel no longer exists. I wish we’d eaten there.

***

Today, WP refuses to print a tilde. Thus Acuna. Maybe tomorrow.

The Maven

2018-10-20 ttm pixabay poe cc0 pd writer-17565_640

One more time.

*****

Why? Because–A friend, calling to confirm David and I would meet her and her husband the next day for the Edgar Allan Poe exhibit at the Harry Ransom Center, reported her house was being leveled for the second time in three years: “There are thirteen men under my house.”

I hooked up Edgar Allan Poe with the number thirteen and house with Usher and wrote the following verse. Halloween approaches, so I’m posting it again.

Note: Tuck and Abby are my friends’ dogs.

Another note: Maven means expert. I looked it up to make sure.

THE MAVEN

To G. and M. in celebration
of their tenth trimester
of home improvement,
with  affection.
Forgive me for making
mirth of melancholy.

 

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a rapping,

As of someone gently tapping, tapping at my chamber floor.

“‘Tis some armadillo,” said I, “tapping at my chamber floor,

Only this, and nothing more.”

 

 

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the dry September,

And my house was sinking southward, lower than my bowling score,

Pier and beam and blocks of concrete, quiet as Deuteron’my’s cat feet,

Drooping like an unstarched bedsheet toward the planet’s molten core.

“That poor armadillo,” thought I, “choosing my house to explore.

He’ll squash like an accordion door.”

 

 

“Tuck,” I cried, “and Abby, come here! If my sanity you hold dear,

Go and get that armadillo, on him all your rancor pour.

While he’s bumping and a-thumping, give his rear a royal whumping,

Send him hence with head a-lumping, for this noise do I abhor.

Dasypus novemcinctus is not a beast I can ignore

Clumping ‘neath my chamber floor.”

 

While they stood there prancing, fretting, I imparted one last petting,

Loosed their leashes and cried “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war.

As they flew out, charged with venom, I pulled close my robe of denim.

“They will find him at a minimum,” I said, “and surely more,

Give him such a mighty whacking he’ll renounce forevermore

Lumbering ‘neath my chamber floor.”

 

 

But to my surprise and wonder, dogs came flying back like thunder.

“That’s no armadillo milling underneath your chamber floor.

Just a man with rule and level, seems engaged in mindless revel,

Crawling round. The wretched devil is someone we’ve seen before,

Measuring once and measuring twice and measuring thrice. We said, ‘Señor,

Get thee out or thee’s done for.'”

 

“Zounds!” I shouted, turning scarlet. “What is this, some vill’nous varlet

Who has come to torment me with mem’ries of my tilting floor?”

Fixing myself at my station by my floundering foundation,

Held I up the quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore.

“Out, you cad!” I said, “or else prepare to sleep beneath my floor,

Nameless there forever more.”

 

Ere my words had ceased resounding, with their echo still surrounding,

Crawled he out, saluted, and spoke words that chilled my very core.

“I been down there with my level, and those piers got quite a bevel.

It’s a case of major evolution: totter, tilt galore.

Gotta fix it right away, ma’am, ‘less you want your chamber floor

At a slant forevermore.”

 

At his words there came a pounding and a dozen men came bounding

From his pickup, and they dropped and disappeared beneath my floor.

And they carried beam and hammer and observed no rules of grammar,

And the air was filled with clamor and a clanging I deplore.

“Take thy beam and take thy level and thy failing Apgar score

And begone forevermore.”

 

 

But they would not heed my prayer, and their braying filled the air,

And it filled me with despair, this brouhaha that I deplore.

“Fiend!” I said. “If you had breeding, you would listen to my pleading,

For I feel my mind seceding from its sane and sober core,

And my house shall fall like Usher.” Said the leader of the corps,

“Lady, you got no rapport.”

 

“How long,” shrieked I then in horror, “like an ominous elm borer,

Like a squirrely acorn storer will you lurk beneath my floor?

Prophesy!” I cried, undaunted by the chutzpah that he flaunted,

And the expertise he vaunted. “Tell me, tell me, how much more?”

But he strutted and he swaggered like a man who knows the score.

Quoth the maven, “Evermore.”

 

He went off to join his legion in my house’s nether region

While my dogs looked on in sorrow at that dubious guarantor.

Then withdrawing from this vassal with his temperament so facile

I went back into my castle and I locked my chamber door.

“On the morrow, they’ll not leave me, but will lodge beneath my floor

Winter, spring, forevermore.”

 

So the hammering and the clamoring and the yapping, yawping yammering

And the shrieking, squawking stammering still are sounding ‘neath my floor.

And I sit here sullen, slumping in my chair, and dream the thumping

And the armadillo’s bumping is a sound I could adore.

For those soles of boots from out the crawlspace ‘neath my chamber floor

Shall be lifted—Nevermore!

 

The Great Throwing-Away: Bob’s Grocery

I just packed the egg separator from Bob’s Grocery in Fentress, Texas, ca. 1956.

Why?

Because it’s from Bob’s Grocery in Fentress, Texas, ca. 1956.

Bob–really Rob Waller–was my father’s first cousin. They grew up on neighboring farms on the Guadalupe County side of the San Marcos River.

Nell, Rob’s wife and partner in the grocery store, was my second mama. She and I were the sole and exclusive members of a Mutual Admiration Society.

Rob and Nell’s three daughters, teenagers when I came along, were my idols.

There are a lot of stories I could tell, but the movers will be here any minute, so I have to stop.

But the point is, no matter how broken and cracked and shabby that egg separator is, you just don’t go throwing it away.

Little Google Fiber or, Quick! Get Up and Put Some Clothes On!

Tomorrow we end our relationship with Google Fiber. At the end of two years of excellent connectivity, I repost the verse I wrote to celebrate the beginning.

With apologies to James Whitcomb Riley

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Google Fiber’s come to our house today,
To scramble through the attic and drag cables on the way,
And cut some boards and drill some holes and stuff some cables that
Will link up with some other stuff beside the thermostat;
But first the upstairs closet had to be cleared out for space,
The downstairs china cabinet moved and china all displaced,
“And Kathy can’t just lie in bed,” they said, “or lounge about,
‘Cause we’ll see her in her jammies

Ef she

Don’t

Watch

Out.”

 

 

I heered ’em in the attic, flippin’, flappin’ like a bat,
And a-scritchin’ and a-scratchin’, like a sheetrock-eatin’ rat,
And the warnin’ that they said we’d get? Like knockin’ on the door,
And sayin’, all polite-like, “Ma’am? Here’s me and all my corp
Of drillers and of draggers, we don’t want to scare you none
By creatin’ a cacophony before your sleep is done,
So please wake up, get up out of bed. It puts us in a pout
When we see you in your jammies

‘Cause you

Don’t

Watch

Out.”

 

 

But, no, the warning never came, and I was in still in bed,
Although my husband came upstairs an hour ‘fore and said,
“Dear, don’t you think you’d better rise and put some lipstick on
And stretch your arms and stretch your legs and give a drowsy yawn,
And don some clothes and stuff those PJs in the nearest vase,
Cause those raggedy old things reflect on us a sad disgrace,
And the Google guys will run and flee. You’ll cause a general rout
If they see you in your jammies

‘Cause you

Don’t

Watch

Out.

 

 

Though I am a thoughtful wife and always try to please,
My lids were heavy, and I stayed in bed and took my ease,
And so it was that I was still in Morpheus’ embrace
When the scritchin’ and the flappin’ up above me did take place.
And I sprang up from my bed and ran, but threw up neither sash,
Nor did I fly to ingle-side to brush aside the ash.
I screeched, “That isn’t Santa, it’s the Google men, no doubt!
And they’ll see me in my jammies

Ef I

Don’t

Watch

Out!”

 

 

So I scrabbled and I flipped and flapped and sounded like that rat,
Although louder and lots faster, like unto a scalded cat.
“I’d be ready now,” I said, “if only Google had been nice,
And not made me move the china so my muscles needed ice,
And my body and my soul cried out, ‘This raveled sleave of care
Must be knit up, and sore labor’s bath I needs must have! O swear
That Google will not taunt me for a loathesome layabout
‘Cause they see me in my jammies

Ef I

Don’t

Watch

Out.”

 

 

Exciting stories sometimes end in flaming denouements.
This one has a climax that is really, really blah.
I got up, brushed my hair, found clothes, as usually I do,
And dressed and, looking ‘neath the bed, dragged out my other shoe,
Went downstairs, and stared at the wall, and checked email, and when
The Google man knocked on the door, and David came, ’twas then
I said, “Ha ha ha, you cannot say, you early-rising lout,
That you saw me in my jammies,

Cause

I

Watched

Out.”

 

***

By Unknown – Van Allen, Elizabeth J. (1999). James Whitcomb Riley: a life. Indiana University Press. ISBN 0253335914., p. 197, Public Domain, 

The poem “Little Orphan Annie” was written by James Whitcomb Riley in 1885. The original title was “Little Orphant Annie,” but an error in a later printing changed the name.

English: James Whitcomb Riley, known as the Ch...
James Whitcomb Riley, known as the Children’s Poet, poses with a group of children for a photo to be included in a book published for the Indiana state’s centennial anniversary. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The poem was inspired by Mary Alice Smith, a child who came to the home of Riley’s parents as a “bound” servant to earn her board and keep. She worked alongside Mrs. Riley and the other children and helped with housework. The Rileys referred to her as a guest and treated her as one of the family. In the evenings she told ghost stories to the children, including James, the future poet.

In the 1920s, Mary Alice Smith inspired the comic strip “Little Orphan Annie” and the Raggedy Ann doll created by Johnny Gruelle.

The poem is in the public domain. It appears at https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/little-orphant-annie

Thanks to Wikipedia for the information shared here.

Thanks to James Whitcomb Riley for writing the delightful poem that popped into my head as soon as I heard the Google men scrabbling around in the attic. Read in just the right way, the last four lines can scare the stuffings out of a bunch of eight-year-old girls at a Brownie troop meeting.

***

Little Orphant Annie’s come to our house to stay,
An’ wash the cups an’ saucers up, an’ brush the crumbs away,
An’ shoo the chickens off the porch, an’ dust the hearth, an’ sweep,
An’ make the fire, an’ bake the bread, an’ earn her board-an’-keep;
An’ all us other childern, when the supper things is done,
We set around the kitchen fire an’ has the mostest fun
A-list’nin’ to the witch-tales ‘at Annie tells about,
An’ the Gobble-uns ‘at gits you
             Ef you
                Don’t
                   Watch
                      Out!
							 
Onc’t they was a little boy wouldn’t say his prayers,--
So when he went to bed at night, away up stairs,
His Mammy heerd him holler, an’ his Daddy heerd him bawl,
An’ when they turn’t the kivvers down, he wasn’t there at all!
An’ they seeked him in the rafter-room, an’ cubby-hole, an’ press,
An’ seeked him up the chimbly-flue, an’ ever’wheres, I guess;
But all they ever found was thist his pants an’ roundabout--
An’ the Gobble-uns’ll git you
             Ef you
                Don’t
                   Watch
                      Out!
							 
An’ one time a little girl ‘ud allus laugh an’ grin,
An’ make fun of ever’one, an’ all her blood an’ kin;
An’ onc’t, when they was “company," an’ ole folks was there,
She mocked ‘em an’ shocked ‘em, an’ said she didn’t care!
An’ thist as she kicked her heels, an’ turn’t to run an’ hide,
They was two great big Black Things a-standin’ by her side,
An’ they snatched her through the ceilin’ ‘fore she knowed what she’s about!
An’ the Gobble-uns’ll git you
             Ef you
                Don’t
                   Watch
                      Out!
							 
An’ little Orphant Annie says when the blaze is blue,
An’ the lamp-wick sputters, an’ the wind goes woo-oo!
An’ you hear the crickets quit, an’ the moon is gray,
An’ the lightnin’-bugs in dew is all squenched away,--
You better mind yer parents, an’ yer teachers fond an’ dear,
An’ churish them ‘at loves you, an’ dry the orphant’s tear,
An’ he’p the pore an’ needy ones ‘at clusters all about,
Er the Gobble-uns’ll git you
             Ef you
                Don’t
                   Watch
                      Out!

The Great Throwing-Away: Back When I Was Smart

One of the advantages of being disorganized is that one is always having surprising discoveries.

~A. A. Milne

Last night, embroiled in the Great Throwing-Away, I made surprising discoveries. I found

*The senior will, which I read at the junior-senior banquet (1969)

*The judge’s comments on ten pages of a novel I submitted to the Writers’ League of Texas (2007), not as bad as I remembered

*The essay, with judge’s comments, that I wrote for the state Ready Writing contest (1969), during which I was imprisoned in a classroom with other students from all over Texas for two hours or until I’d written a 1000-word essay, whichever came first. It was torture.

*Several pages–or maybe all–of a story I wrote in the early ’80s for my fellow teachers to read in the teachers’ lounge or (surreptitiously) in meetings. In chapter one, the principal expires while eating poisoned chocolate mousse prepared by home economics students.

*But the big, really big, surprise was the discovery of a paper I wrote in grad school for a Tennyson/Browning class and presented at the Conference of College Teachers of English back in 1984, my first year as a college teacher of English. I’d thought it was gone forever.

The paper is titled, “Sickness and Death in Tennyson’s ‘Lancelot and Elaine,‘” from Tennyson’s The Idylls of the King. I wrote it six months after my father died unexpectedly. If that year had been happy, I might have seen something happier in the poem, but it was a miserable year, so I saw sickness and death.

It was a miserable year for Lancelot, Elaine, and Guinevere, too. Guinevere, Queen of Camelot, is sick and can’t go to the fair jousts King Arthur has arranged. When she tells Arthur she can’t go, Sir Lancelot, his closest friend, says “‘Sir King, mine ancient wound is hardly whole, / And lets me from the saddle.'”

I’ve forgotten how he got his ancient wound, but it’s healed; he could sit in that saddle if he wanted to. When he claims to be ailing, he’s lying through his teeth. He doesn’t want to go to the joust. He wants to stay with Guinevere.  Although Tennyson doesn’t come out and say it, he makes it clear that Arthur knows–or at least suspects–it’s not a wound that’s keeping him at home.

Then there’s Elaine, the Lily Maid. Lancelot dreams about her and then meets her, and she immediately falls in love with him. She’s young, lovable, sweet, and pure.  After Lancelot is wounded in a joust–he went to the fair joust after all, but in disguise–Elaine cares for him. Her company has a healthful effect on him. But his spirit is also sick–carrying on with your dearest friend’s wife and fibbing about it and then becoming semi-involved with another woman will do that to you–and Elaine can’t restore his spirit. And, unfortunately, although he’s attentive, he’s not in love with her.

Elaine isn’t in good health either. She lives in sterile, self-imposed isolation, refusing to express emotion. She wants Lancelot, but he can’t live in her fantasy world, and when she realizes he doesn’t love her, the mirror cracks from side to side and the curse comes upon her. Infected by reality, she decides to die.

(The mirror and the curse are in “The Lady of Shalott,” not the Idylls, but Tennyson wrote both, and he wouldn’t mind my combining them).

Well. If this weren’t enough, Guinevere is behaving badly. She starts out by rebuking Lancelot for lying to Arthur. When she sees he’s become fond of Elaine, jealousy overtakes her–spiritual sickness runs rampant in this Idyll–and carps at Lancelot unmercifully. She doesn’t have one good word for the man. Granted, she’s been sick, but I don’t think that excuses the carping.

When Lancelot brings her a gift of diamonds he’s won in a series of jousts, a gesture most women would appreciate, she throw a hissy fit and tells him to give them to Elaine, then changes her mind and says, “She shall not have them,” and throws them out the window into the river. Then, while Lancelot is leaning on the window sill, watching his diamonds hit the water, here comes a lifeless Elaine, floating down the river on a barge.

Not a good day. A triangle with two sides sick and the other dead.

And it doesn’t stop there. The last line of the poem predicts that Lancelot will “die a holy man.”

“Lancelot and Elaine” tells a sad story. It could be a downer, especially for someone not in the best state of mind. Looking back, I can see that focusing on sickness and death for several weeks while I studied the text and wrote the paper was depressing.

But now when I think of the the Idyll, I remember not sickness and death but a beautiful image. Ironically, it grows out of Guinevere’s rage, when she exclaims that Elaine shall not have the diamonds.

Saying which she seized,
And, through the casement standing wide for heat,
Flung them, and down they flashed, and smote the stream.
Then from the smitten surface flashed, as it were,
Diamonds to meet them, and they past away.

When the diamonds, flashing in the sun, hit the surface of the stream, water splashes up, droplets flashing in the sun like diamonds.

More than thirty years after first reading the Idylls, I retain that image: diamonds meeting diamonds.

Those are some of the loveliest lines I’ve ever read.

Coming across the paper on “Lancelot and Elaine,” was true serendipity. A delightful surprise, because it reminds of me of a time when I was smart. When I was a scholar. When I engaged in literary criticism. When I could write formal prose. When I would never have inserted an incomplete sentence into a formal composition. Or in an informal composition. When I had a personal lexicon of more than a dozen words. When I could spell.

And when I would have floated down the river on a barge before I’d let anyone read what I’ve written in this irreverent little post.

 

***

Images

“How Sir Launcelot Fought with a Fiendly Dragon.” Arthur Rackham. Public domain. Via Wikipedia.

Guinevere.” Henry Justice Ford (1860-1941). {{PD-US-expired}}

“The Lady of Shalott.” Henry Meynell Rheam{{PD-US}}

“The Lady of Shalott Reaches Camelot.” Author unknown. From “The Lady of Shalott” by Alfred Lord Tennyson.
{{PD-US-expired}}

Millennials Killed the Fleek

Today’s Dictionary.com word

Fleeknice, smooth, sweet (2003); awesome, added in 2009;
used in 2014 by everybody but me .

Nobody says fleek now. Millennials killed it. Naughty millennials.

Seems it can be used to describe Kim Kardashian‘s butt. My take on Kim Kardashian’s butt: Years back, when she said she broke the Internet–well, if she did, it’s because she sat on it.

Kim Kardashian is licensed by Eva Rinaldi under CC BY-SA 2.0

While waiting for a radiation treatment, I read in a magazine that Kim is so self-conscious about her butt she backs out of a room so her husband won’t see it. That’s a lot of reversing. I’ll bet he knows about it anyway.

I believe this is the first time I’ve used butt in this blog, or much of anywhere else. I try to avoid the subject. If necessary, I say derriere. When I wanted children to sit on the floor in the library’s Story Square, I told them to sit on their bottoms. Teachers said that, so I followed suit.

Anyway, back to fleek. It was made up by a 16-year-old. She said it about her eyebrows on a video. The video went viral, and here we are, or there we were in 2014.

My take on fleek: It’s a spin-off of sleek. It might be a portmanteau word, a combination of fast and sleek, or fantastic and sleek. Some would say it’s a corruption of sleek, but I wouldn’t go that far. I might start saying it myself. Like if I ever have to describe my eyebrows or Kim Kardashian’s butt.

***

My apologies for any offense taken over my use of butt in this post. I was deprived of sleep for two consecutive nights and as a result am  incapable of exhibiting good taste. In addition, I mean no disrespect to Kim Kardashian. I’m a little challenged in that area myself.

 

The Great Throwing-Away: Piano

My husband just made arrangements for the Salvation Army to pick up the piano because we’re moving in two weeks and won’t have room for it in our new place.

It’s not in the best of shape. It doesn’t tune as high as it should because I let it get too hot and too cold for a year before moving it to Austin.

But it still tunes and would be fine for playing, or for singing to if you’re not particular about the vocal range. Still, I haven’t played it in months, have played only infrequently for years. The cats sleep under it.

William used to sleep on it.

So I shouldn’t care.

But any minute now, I’m going to start crying, and I’m going to cry till the Sally truck comes on Tuesday, and I’m going to cry while they load it onto the truck, and while they drive off, and every time I look at the space where it used to live, because all my life I’ve had a piano, and now I won’t.

And then I’ll dry up and feel a lot better because the Salvation Army was good to soldiers during World War II, and they’ll find it a home where somebody will play it and not let it just sit there with cats leaning against the pedals.

And because I’ll have stopped trying to drag one more part of my past into the present.

***

Image of piano by Karen Arnold from Pixabay

The Great Throwing-Away: Quilts

Today’s Great Throwing-Away was more of a Great Packing-Away, but I’m stopping for a brief post. Anything to take me away from the task at hand.

Like my mother’s cookbook and her high school diploma, three quilts will stay with me.

The first is a baby blanket my mother’s mother, Mary Veazey Barrow, made for me. It’s blue, the safe color, since at the time no self-respecting boy would have been seen curled up under a pink blanket. Today there are no boy or girl colors, but I suspect blue is still the safe one.

The second is a quilt my great-grandmother, Nettie Eastwood Woodward (“Granny”) made for my dad. I don’t know exactly how old it is, but Granny died in 1940, so I assume it was made in the ’20s or ’30s–close to a hundred years old, anyway. I spent hours under that quilt during my sinus infection years and occupied myself by contemplating the one-inch squares of reds and blues and yellows and the tiny stitches binding them together. Today I look at it and think of the work that went into just piecing the top.

 

My grandfather Waller provided fabric for the third quilt. He chain-smoked Bull Durham roll-your-own cigarettes. After my grandmother died, when he was thirty-five, he lived on his farm but ate many of his meals at his mother’s house in town, and, consequently, did a lot of smoking there, too.

When he emptied a tobacco sack, he set it on the radio table in the living room. His older sister, Ethel, who lived there, got tired of picking up the sacks and decided to see how long he would let them stack up before he moved them. I gather he let them stack up as long as she waited to see how long he would let them stack up . . . etc.

Finally, she collected them, cut them open, washed them, and pieced two quilt backs, one for each of my grandfather’s youngest sons. But she never got around to making the quilts. When I was in my twenties, my uncle Donald’s wife and mother-in-law matched one of the backs with a sheet and made a quilt for me.

 

News Flash: Bullet Books Are Here!

 

Bullet Books are speed reads for the busy traveler, commuter, and beach-goer. All are new original crime fiction stories that can be read in two to three hours. Gripping cinematic mysteries and thrillers by your favorite authors!

Manning Wolfe, attorney and author of the Merit Bridges legal thrillers, this week introduced the first set of Bullet Books. She’s co-written them with other twelve crime fiction authors, and they’re ready for readers.

I am officially chuffed because I’m one of the twelve. The book is

Available from Amazon. Click on the cover.

And on the back cover:

English professor Blair Cassidy arrives home late one rainy night to find the body of her boss-from-hell, Justin Capaldi, lying stabbed to death on her front porch. Her bloody clothes and plausible motive make her the number one suspect. When attorney and ex-husband Hart Montgomery vows he’ll keep her out of prison, she wants to believe him… 

But, Blair suspects hers is one murder case Hart would love to lose.

And the book trailer!

I’ll add that Blair has something Hart reeeally wants. And then there’s the argument over a concrete slab.

Bullet Books are short and snappy. Open one on take-off, finish on touch-down, and in between, escape into a world of fiction designed to keep you turning pages.

See all twelve Bullet Books here (and find out who the authors are): http://bulletbooksspeedreads.com/

Read more about them here: http://bulletbooksspeedreads.com/blog/

Find STABBED on Amazon here:

https://www.amazon.com/Stabbed-Bullet-Books-Speed-Reads-ebook/dp/B07XQK7YJR/

and here: https://www.amazon.com/Stabbed-Bullet-Books-Speed-Reads-ebook/dp/B07XQK7YJR/

I could say more about Bullet Books—such as, profiling the other eleven authors and mentioning the titles of their books—but I’ll save it for another time.

On second thought, it’s a little tacky of me to showcase STABBED and ignore everyone else. And this post sounds suspiciously like an advertisement. That’s a little tacky, too.

But I think I can live with it.

I will say, most sincerely, that I’m honored to have had the opportunity to write with Manning Wolfe and to be in the company of some fine authors. I hope you’ll read and enjoy STABBED and all the other Bullet Books.

By the way, air travel is not required. While Bullet Books are suitable for all modes of transportation, they’re just as entertaining in recliners, rocking chairs, and porch swings. The choice is yours.

***

The Great Throwing-Away: Tomato Soup Cake

The Great Throwing-Away continues to unearth items I refuse to throw away.

Today it’s The Household Searchlight Recipe Book my mother acquired, according to the inside cover, in 1940.

It’s had a hard life. I referred to page 77 repeatedly during my Divinity Phase, when I was eleven. Every rainy weekend—and there were more of them back them—I made divinity. It never set. I knew it wouldn’t, and I didn’t care. I didn’t like divinity all that much, but I enjoyed using the candy thermometer. The divinity always turned out sticky and had to be eaten with a spoon, but it was perfectly good.

Anyway, the highlight of the cookbook appears in the back, written in pencil, under “Additional Recipes”: Tomato Soup Spice Cake.

I grew up hearing the Legend of the Tomato Soup Cake: “Ted [my mother’s uncle Ted Lynn] was always saying, ‘Crys, when are you going to make me a tomato soup cake?’ That was his favorite.” For some reason, maybe because my father was more of a chocolate- and lemon meringue pie addict, I never got a glimpse of the cake. I don’t think I wanted to. I was addicted to Campbell’s tomato soup (cream of, made with milk and mushy with saltine crackers) but cake and tomato soup sounded incompatible (like bleh). I was in my twenties when I finally insisted on seeing what Ted was so crazy about.

Well, Ted was right. For anyone who likes spice cake, this is the one. For anyone who doesn’t like spice cake, this could be a game changer. The layers are velvety. The icing is a candy in itself.

My mother got the recipe from—if I remember correctly—the wife of the Methodist minister in Martindale, Texas, in the late 1930s. Instructions were dictated and lack detail. I’ve inserted a few extra steps in brackets. Some I remember doing myself. My mom might have directed the operation the first time I baked it, or she might have written out a fuller version for me.

And before anyone asks, I have no idea how to define a scant teaspoon.

Tomato Soup Spice Cake

Layers

2 cups tomato soup [2 cups canned soup, not the entire two cans]
1 cup melted butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs – optional
1 handful raisins
2 scant tsp. soda

[A wisp of memory said to dredge raisins in flour before mixing with other ingredients. Specifically, I remember saying, “What does, ‘Dredge raisins mean?'” BUT, on second thought, I believe dredged raisins went into my grandmother’s applesauce cake, not into the tomato soup cake. I hate to make this difficult, but I haven’t baked either since the 1980s.*]

Cream butter and sugar, add 2 scant teaspoons soda to soup and add to sugar and butter mixture.

Sift together:

4 scant cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cloves
3 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. all spice
1/2 tsp. mace (or nutmeg)

[Add sifted dry ingredients to wet ingredients and blend.]

Add 3 tsp. vanilla to mixture.

Makes 2 large or 3 medium layers. [For best results, make 3 layers. See “Further instructions from Kathy,” below.]

[Pour into cake pans. Bake. Possibly at 350 degrees.]

Icing

This:

1 Phila. cream cheese
? powdered sugar
? vanilla

[The corner of the page is missing, so I don’t know how much powdered sugar and vanilla are called for. Check online, act on experience, or guess. But if the online recipe calls for butter, don’t add it.]

or [and!]

This:

1 C milk
2 C sugar
1 C dates [Pitted dates. And a warning: 1 cup doesn’t sound like enough. In fact, I’m not sure this makes enough icing to cover three layers. If you increase the recipe and have some left over, that will be all right, because the extra can be eaten as candy.]

Boil to soft ball and add dates before taking off.

Add 1 tablespoon butter afterward.

[Another warning: After butter is added, the icing may need to be beaten a bit. I think it does. Fudge and pecan pralines do.]

 

Further instructions from Kathy:

Now. This is what the all the fuss was about.

Make 3 layers.

Make the second “This” icing with milk, sugar, and dates. Ice the tops of layers.

Make the first “This” icing with cream cheese. Ice the sides of the cake.

My experience: Do not try to slice in wedges. The candy icing hardens/sets and can make slicing difficult.

Instead, bisect the cake—a bread knife and a light touch can help—and then make cuts perpendicular to the cross cut. (The icing might have hardened because I cooked it too long. But I think it’s supposed to set that way. Like divinity does when the humidity is low.)

I’ve seen similar recipes online, but none looks like it would match this beast. Combine three layers of light, velvety cake with two kinds of icing, and the end product is simply devastating.

The Tomato Soup Cake recipe is included in a cookbook published by the Fentress Volunteer Fire Department Auxiliary (or maybe it was the church?) in the 1970s or ’80s. I don’t have my copy any more, so I can’t verify, but one of the ingredients may have been recorded incorrectly. I seem to remember—lots of my memories are wispy these days—using it and coming out with an unexpected result.

According to WorldCat, The Household Searchlight Recipe Book is housed in the collections of the Turpin Library (Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, TX), the Texas Woman’s University Library (Denton, TX), the Marfa Public Library (Marfa, TX), the Alcorn State University Library (Lorman, MS), the Perry Memorial Library (Perryton, TX), and the Conway Springs City Library (Conway Springs, KS).

It receives excellent reviews on Goodreads. Various editions are available on Amazon.

***

*I haven’t baked much of anything since the 1980s.