Vera’s Small-town Chronicles

Dog Tales

I am inspired by the oddities in day-to-day life. Perfect example. The other day I was out in the van and braked to a stop behind a mid sized car at a red light. In the back seat was a full-grown Labrador retriever looking out the rear side window behind the driver’s seat. A similar sized car pulled up in the inside lane and stopped right beside the first car. In this second car there was also a full-grown lab of similar colour.

Dog Traveling in Car

Coincidence? Without a doubt. So, these two dogs are pretty much face-to-face and I’m watching them watch each other. I wondered if these dogs, now facing each other through their respective car windows, think they are looking in a mirror? And if so, do you think one dog thought, (bow) wow, I look buff! And the other dog thought, hmm, I’ve gained a few pounds?

I also wondered when the cars started moving forward and the one dog loped over to the other side of the back seat did each of the dogs think they were having an out of body experience? And as an extension of that thought do you think the one dog watched the other walk off and said to himself, ‘Ah hah! There they are, I thought I’d lost them!’ Okay, I know it’s a stretch, but that’s the way my mind works.

The second dog story occurred at a drive-through. I was in line when a man with a frisky little Jack Russel on a leash walked into the drive-through line in front of me. He indicated he wanted to go to the window so I waved him in. He spoke to the worker through the window while his little dog frisked and barked a bit. He paid for whatever he’d requested, and backed away with a wave of thanks to me. I pull up to the window to pay for my order and collect my food and I say to the worker, “Wow, that guy’s lunch date is a real dog…” She obviously missed seeing the frisking little dog or else had no sense of doggy humour. She all but shrieked at me, “What?” As if I had breached social protocol. I took my bag of food and left, I did note man and dog were having chilli for lunch.

I arrived at the railway crossing in time for the train, just my luck. I had my lunch so I began to eat. I noticed that on the rear window shelf of the car in front of me was one of those large expensive fur hats some men wear. I was munching on a fry thinking if I had a hat like that, I wouldn’t leave it in the car because the sun would likely ruin it. And then the hat opened its eyes. Scared the be-jeepers out of me. It wasn’t a hat but the head of a Newfoundland dog.

When I got home and pulled into my driveway I checked the perimeter for rogue canines, I mean, three dog coincidences—definitely a sign of something!

The Torso Pillow

Television decorating divas, wow, right? The ways they think of for sprucing up a home amazes me. Some projects are simple enough even an un-crafty woman like me can pull them off. I admit I’ve headed to the craft store on occasion to buy the materials required for a project they’ve dumbed down.  

Those TV folk make it look easy. It’s not. Crafting is messy and frustrating and involves lots of swearing…at least when I do it.

I also admit my enthusiasm wanes quickly. Despite buying all the fixings with good intentions, I inevitably stuff everything into the bottom drawer labeled ‘Road To H-E-double hockey sticks’ that is tightly paved with projects started with good intentions.

A repeat broadcast of the episode where kitschy throw pillows were made using recycled sweaters and T-shirts aired and I remembered buying a bag of stuffing material for this pillow project. Anyone who’s ever bought stuffing knows it’s a nightmare for a bargain shopper, at least I still have nightmares about purchasing a best-price bag. Best-price is another name for an elephantine bag of polyester. This bag weighs nothing, but must be carried out of the store full frontal. For a short human that means you can’t see a thing around that bag. When I eventually made it to my vehicle, I discovered stuffing the stuffing into it will make you sweat. When the stuffing was finally inside, just like every bargain shopper, I sent up a silent prayer that the hatch would still close. 

Pro tip: Don’t buy the “Industrial Size”.

Fact is, I drove home and became so fed up with stuffing that by the time I carted the bag into the house, I put my project on hold.  Knowing the RTH drawer was out I went to the alternative stashing place: the cubbyhole under the stairs. That’s where the stuffing has been stuffed for a year. That rebroadcast made me decide pillow-time was now. 

I slipped the hook that opens the cubbyhole and the stuffing fell out, knocking the cubby door wide. I leaned the bag in the corner.  

The directions for the pillow were simple. Choose an old T-shirt, sew the arms and the bottom shut. Done! By the time I finished sewing the seams my fingertips were full of poke holes and it was time to cook supper. The pillow project got shoved to the end of the kitchen table in full view. Days later I carry the T-shirt to my office. I swear the bag of stuffing puffed itself up in anticipation. I sat in my swivel chair and ripped open the bag. Big mistake. Stuffing overflowed. 

Mine looked more like a snowstorm!

I fed random handfuls through the neck of the T-shirt. Later, after having barely made a dent in the stuffing bag, I hold a rather portly headless torso. It’s lumpy and frighteningly familiar. The gaping neck hole, through which the pillow’s guts are visible, still needs to be stitched shut.   

Disillusioned with pillow making, I set the unfinished pillow on the floor behind me. The stuffing I returned to the cubbyhole. When I can no longer ignore the gaping wound of the T-shirt/torso/pillow I sew it shut. 

So easy even a child can do…NOT!

I search for beauty in my headless torso pillow. I find none. The lesson? Admit that I really am un-crafty. Stop watching crafty television. 

Sorry About the Chicken, Man

I am well versed in avoidance tactics when it comes to cooking. Believe me, I know how to go above and beyond my range. Today, however, I completely exonerate myself, I bear no responsibility for the food fiasco. I personally had nothing to do with the lack of a supper product, I did my part.

Sure, I heard the weird noise in the kitchen and as I do with all weird noises, I attempted to identify it. When I couldn’t, I just ignored it. If I had to describe the noise, I would say it was not unlike the hiss of water hitting a hot dish. I really did think about it, but again, I wasn’t concerned. Yes, I’d put a chicken in the pre-heated oven but I knew it wasn’t spitting on the coil, the roasting pan has a lid. 

The time arrived for me to stick the potatoes, already peeled and prepped, into the oven. I opened up the door, pushed the roast pan aside and slid in the baking dish of potatoes. At the last minute I decided I should check to make sure the chicken wasn’t browning too quickly I lifted the lid and it looked downright pale. I decided to add a few degrees to the oven temperature and pressed the keypad. I grabbed a glass of water and headed back to my office where I had a hot game of scrabble on the go. At some point I am sure I heard the peep of the oven letting me know it had reached its setting. Not long after that I heard that same hissing noise. “Seriously?” I asked no one aloud. “What are those darn kids doing out on the road?”

Ten to five, I won the scrabble game and I had just enough time to go to the kitchen and zap a can of corn in the microwave. I got the can out of the corner cupboard, turned around and saw that the stove had only 240 degrees Fahrenheit on screen. That isn’t right, I thought. I put down the corn. I opened the oven door and I could tell things were in dire straits. 

First of all, there was no blast of heat, it felt just like a 240* oven, not a 375* oven. There was some kind of black stuff on the potatoes and the entire oven looked like it had turned rogue volcano—complete with ash.

What to do? I called my husband. 

Motto #857, with matters of food or lack of, explain the problem before he passes all the fast food places on his way home. He told me not to do anything. Said he’d be home in ten. 

I left the oven door open and turned off the oven even though I could see that it was not heating as it should. As soon as my husband got home, he removed the racks and reached for the heat coil. It was completely severed on the right side. When he jiggled the coil, it completely fell apart. I killed the oven. 

He turned off the electricity and pulled the coil. We got in the van, ate at a drive through, then went to the hardware store for a new coil. We returned home and the oven was wiped free of ash and in went the new coil. When he turned the oven on, we were back in business, easy-peasy. 

We were discussing what I ought to make for dinner tomorrow night, the chicken was meant to give us leftovers, but it had to go to the trash since I had no real idea how long it had lolled in a sub-heat oven. I said, sorry about the chicken, man. 

He pulled a container of frozen stew out and set it in the frig. He shook his head and I am sure he said, that’s two nights without cooking. I love my life. My husband? He loves me.

Awkward Moments

I would like to suggest a moment of reverence for the awkward moment. We’ve all had them and I’m sure we all wish we hadn’t.

The thing about awkward moments is they come in disguise. You just never know when one of them is going to come your way on any given day. Now, I’m not talking about the day you decide to wear a dress and the elastic in your underwear lets go. That one’s awkward with a side of oh crap. I’m talking run-of-the-mill awkward, like when you run into someone you haven’t seen for several years.

This happened to my husband and me last weekend. We were at the entrance to a store, a place you don’t want to stand too long if the store is a busy one, and a couple that lived two doors down from us years ago came along. We were happy to catch up, we exchanged life moments and then went our separate ways. Or so we thought.

We wheel the cart up one aisle shopping, shopping, shopping. We turn the corner and there they are. We laugh and say the usual—don’t see each other in years etc. imagine the coincidence, etc. We move along. Up the next aisle, turn the corner, and you guessed it. It’s them.

This time we settle for smiling and moving along.

Third aisle, we take the time to nod.

This is beginning to feel really weird. We make a decision based on the facts. We’ve discovered we’re not as fond of them as we thought we were. And frankly, this is just too much exposure. We quickly move to the other side of the store to shop at our leisure.

Up one aisle and would you believe it? There they are again. No nodding, no smiling, no pleasantries, now we’re feeling a bit paranoid. Are they freaking following us? They don’t seem to have much in their cart and we see them whispering to each other. After a couple of quick, furtive glances in our direction they abandon their cart and head for the door.

We watch them leave and we admit to each other we’re relieved. We finish the shopping in this particular establishment and go through the checkout. Soon everything is stashed in the van and we drive to the only stop we have left to make. We’re running low on all our paper products so we snag a cart and head to the paper section.

Now for sure you can see this coming but it has to be said anyway, there they were.

If you guessed we pretended not to see them, you’re correct. If you guessed they responded in exactly the same way, you are again, correct. It’s obvious we have nothing in common except the prior proximity of our houses. In future we won’t make the mistake of chatting when we meet. A casual greeting and a quick race to opposite ends of the retail outlet to avoid the awkward.

Bathroom Issues

I confess, I have bathroom issues. Twice in my life I’ve gone into the bathroom on a simple expedition and created the need for a home repair.

The most ‘realistic’ bathroom picture available on the net!

Last time I tipped over my makeup bag and my entire stash of face-making material landed in the toilet bowl. The biggest problem was created by a mandarin orange sized jar of face cream that lodged in the gooseneck. I tried, but couldn’t dislodge it. When my (long-suffering and understanding) husband came home he had to remove the toilet from the floor and pry the jar out of the gooseneck. Have you seen what the underside of a toilet looks like? The wax seal alone is enough to give a person a nightmare.

Following that repair we went for a drive to the local pharmacy to replace all the materials I’d dumped in the toilet. Not a cheap trip and not one I recommend, buying all your face goods in one day. As a result of that experience I keep a face-maker backup bag. I don’t mind admitting I’m no one without my face. And yes, still married.

This week I decided to give the bathroom sink drain a good cleaning. First, I gathered baking soda and vinegar for a bubbly freshening up. I took out my handy dandy bottle brush, ran some water down the drain, inserted the bottle brush and did a plunge-plunge move. What do you think happened? Yep, when I pulled out the bottle brush the final time the chrome circle that sits at the bottom of the sink came out with it. Before I got my husband involved, I tried to fit the circle back in place. I hoped with my whole heart that it was one of those click into place pieces. Nope, afraid not. I cleaned the sink out and called in the big gun.

My husband said some things. Bottom line? We were going to need a new chrome circle. One that was attached to the pipe that fit into the other pipe underneath the sink. We needed one that was not going to fly off when approached by a bottle brush. The work commenced.

I’m sure some of you are familiar with the Man’s Home Repair Formula. First, describe in detail using all your words, the offending piece of metal that caused the problem. Next, make the exact kind of grunting noises that Tim the Tool Man Taylor made famous on his sit com. Finally, once the piece has been pulled out, drive to the hardware store and get another one. A better one. An un-broken one.

I have no knowledge of the kind of chit chat that goes on at any home repair store and I don’t think I want to know. The good news is the sink is fixed and since my husband was in the bathroom, he repaired the flusher that was wonky.

Final good news? I won’t need to clean that sink hole for a while. Pretty sure we’re all relieved about that.

The Unwanted First

I belong to the Manitoulin Writers’ Circle led by my friend Margo. As leader she is in charge of, well, leading. She sent out the list for this year’s writing as a collective. It’s a stunner: Recounting Firsts and Lasts.

At my age lasts are not at all hard to find whereas firsts are very difficult to come up with. Or so I thought.

I was sitting in the living room last evening. The television was on mute while I talked to my cousin on the telephone. My husband was tinkering with the computer perched on his lap. My cousin was relating an upsetting experience and had reached the climax of her talk. I couldn’t help myself, I squealed. My husband dragged his eyes off the screen of his computer just in time to see what I was seeing.

There, for the first time in the entire time I’ve lived in this house, was a mouse. Don’t downplay it. Don’t say it was just a mouse. I have a rule, no mice anywhere I plan to live. That furry little mouse scared the heck out of me.

Don’t let the cute-factor fool you…mice are trouble.

I apologized to my cousin and watched as the mouse went behind the television cabinet. My husband put aside his computer and went to look for something with which to take care of the mouse. At that moment, my cousin’s upsetting tale was pretty much taking a back seat to my own upset. I waited for my husband to come back from the kitchen and as I watched, out came the mouse. It scurried back along it’s route and was crouched in the side of the kitchen door when my husband came strolling in with a broken trap. He passed the mouse, which then went along the threshold of the kitchen/living room door and perched at the corner of the cupboards. I could see it.

I excused myself from the conversation and gave the location of the mouse to my husband. He grabbed a flashlight, strode to the doorway and attempted to bonk the mouse. Too late. The mouse had found a bolt hole.
My husband turned on the flashlight, scanned the baseboards, nothing. He headed to the basement for new ammo. As he thumped his way down the stairs, I watched the mouse run along behind my husband. Did it go to the basement? The porch? The bathroom?

We lost him.

I ended the phone call and opened my rarely used bottle of fortification. I was convinced Margo’s invoking of firsts and lasts was at fault. I wondered how to exorcise any evidence of the firsts and lasts list from the house. I wondered if I’d need a priest.

I slept the sleep of the on-edge wife. My husband said he too was restless. I didn’t really notice that past the rumble of his snores.

This morning he picked up a bunch of traps at the hardware store, loaded them up, and now we wait.

I blame Margo for this unwanted first.

3 thoughts on “Vera’s Small-town Chronicles

  1. Great story! Poor little mouse. He chose the wrong house in which to set up housekeeping. Dare I hope that it will be a little while before we hear the last of the mouse?

  2. Big thanks to Vera Constantineau for sharing. I love her sense of humour and hope she will continue to regale us with anecdotes of small-town life.

    Her first book, a short story anthology called Daisy-Chained, was published in 2018. It is a great read: funny and heartfelt.

    1. Thanks for the plug of my short fiction collection Willow22. Anyone who wants a copy can pick it up at Coles or contact me through the comments and I will get them a copy ASAP.

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