Monthly Archives: February 2014

Fat Rats and the Allure of Velveeta

Rotel cheese dip is something that, once I start, I simply cannot stop eating.  In fact, I contend that if I was a one of the characters who, with golden ticket in hand, had visited Willie Wonka’s fictional factory, my fat body would most certainly have plugged some tube there that pumped golden, melted faux-cheese and chili peppers through the place.  Augustus Gloop can have the chocolate.  I’ll take the Rotel.

cheese-dip-ingredianceFrankly, diabolical chemists at Kraft have apparently managed to molecularly infuse this concoction’s primary ingredient – Velveeta Cheese – with some mysteriously unnatural, irresistibly addictive property.  Think Winnie the Pooh and honey.  Oozy, steaming Velveeta, spiked with chopped tomatoes and chilies, is good enough with regular tortilla chips but when blessed to have it paired with Frito Scoops, the steam shovel of the chip world, hot Velveeta leapfrogs even marbled rib-eye steak, batter-fried chicken and deep dish pizza up the Food Taste Hot 100 Chart … with a bullet.

And now, the rest of the story …

It all started one morning last week when I noticed a hole in a golf ball lying in the floorboard of the front passenger seat of my Toyota SUV.  The hole appeared to have been drilled into the hard coating of the ball, and the shavings were still scattered around it.

“Those are teeth marks,” my wife, the lovely and talented Rothann, exclaimed.

I wanted to deny the obvious, but unless Lilliputian miners interested in the innards of golf balls had somehow infiltrated my vehicle during the night, clearly a rodent – a squirrel, a rat, a mouse (a big one) – had violated my sovereign territory.  And it had destroyed property.

I told myself that this was a one-time event.  Whatever had gotten in surely wasn’t “in” now.  The lovely Rothann and her skittish 11-year-old Maddux weren’t convinced.

“Something’s been eating the side of the seat!” Maddux incredulously exclaimed while Rothann, now standing outside the car, whacked her seat with an umbrella handle.  To avoid the imminent rodent horde that would, of course, be flushed out by his mother’s whacking, Maddux stopped, dropped and rolled to safety.  I was going to be forced to take action.

The first night I tried a basic, old-style mouse trap with peanut butter.  Sunrise revealed the results of my first direct encounter with our trespasser – trap licked clean, un-triggered.  After an ensuing two nights of more of the same, I stepped back and pondered the situation.

“He’s getting in and out for sure,” I thought.  “Or worse – he’s in there with me all the time.  Or worse than worse – THEY are in there with me all the time.”

rat-trapI ratcheted up my efforts and switched to a new-fangled D-Con black plastic, triangular, “hallway” trap – two of them.   Several more nights passed, and no hallway had been walked through as far as I could tell.  I threw it all out when I noticed the varmint had audaciously bitten into my seat belt strap.  It occurred to me that if he goes for a brake line, he may actually kill me.

The A-team theme song played in my head as I pulled my infested vehicle in at Rutherford’s Texaco.  I had a new battle plan, and it involved my Toyota being cleaned to perfection.  Of utmost importance, I explained, was that I not have a single Cheeto crumb or even the faintest dusting of powdered sugar anywhere inside my SUV this particular evening.  No, there must be only ONE thing to eat in my car, at least if the dashboard and floor mats aren’t counted.  Tonight carefully placed atop a heavy-duty rat trap – one powered by that ingenious human invention called spring-loaded steel – would be a juicy, bouncy, tacky cube of Kraft crack – Velveeta.

Dead Rat 016 - CopyThe following morning, as the sun rose to the first warm day in weeks, I expectantly opened my SUV’s right rear door, and visual evidence confirmed that my nocturnal nemesis had indeed finally met his end.  A steel bar crushed his not-so-little rat head during the night at his first and last taste of the human temptation that I had calculated he couldn’t resist.

Yes, the fat rat that eluded capture and elimination for weeks while yielding NO ground in his personal battle with Earth’s preeminent life form had finally succumbed … to the allure of Velveeta … as I knew he would.

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Hot Under the Collar

My mother – Virginia Dale Richey –deserves a full biography one of these days.

I’d categorize Mama’s life story, for the most part, as a comedy.  And if you really think about it, isn’t that about the best we can hope for out of life?

Woman Ironing While Drinking CocktailCertainly, she’s had her share of drama and tragedy sprinkled on a story that spans something more than half a century – and that’s as close as I’m coming to telling her age – but these days, and for many years running, she has somehow managed to maneuver herself consistently into funny, even downright wacky, situations.

I reported several weeks ago the broken hip she suffered in November, and how that infirmity caused her such dismay through the holidays.  She simply wasn’t able to do the holiday things she would normally have done.  My brother and I were therefore conscripted into an array of unnatural domestic duties to help get us all through Christmas.  We did what we could.  Thank God for our wives.

women_ironingBut finally now, Mother’s recovered.  She’s back up and walking.  Yet for some reason, I still discover her, quite often in fact, sitting in my dad’s motorized wheelchair when I visit.  She appears to be using it more like a little indoor golf cart now rather than the absolute mobility necessity it was a month ago.  I make no judgment of her new practice, but when I do pop in and catch her in the chair, she’s quick with an excuse – “Now Clark, this is the first time I’ve been in this chair all day” – like she’s just been caught smoking.

“But, you know, it really is comfortable.  It really, really is.”  She hangs that out there for my approval, or perhaps just commentary.  I don’t know what I’m supposed to say to it.

woman-ironingThis morning I surprised my mother and father and showed up, unexpectedly, to enjoy a cup of coffee with them about 8:30.  When Mother finally got finished with a fresh litany of wheelchair excuses, she fired up her engine and pulled forward enough that I could slide past and take a seat between them at the kitchen table.  We had a very pleasant conversation, moving through several topics, the last of which was just how much she and her cousins had enjoyed our local theater production of 12 Angry Men (which I directed) last Saturday night.

“Oh, it was just wonderful.  It could NOT have been any better.  It really, really couldn’t.”  She heaped on praise and repeated it ad infinitum for emphasis.  I always know where to turn if I need a little confidence boost.

Ironing2My mother believes that she still needs to take care of me.  As we sipped our coffees and chatted, she thought she saw a small spot on my knit shirt.  I looked down and unfortunately confirmed, sure enough, there WAS just the tiniest blotch of discolored fabric there under my buttons.

“Well, that’s all right.  I’ve got one right here.  I was going to give it to you anyway.”

She sprang from her comfortable chair, disappeared into the hall, and returned almost instantly with a near-duplicate of the shirt I had on, tags and labels still in place.  I changed shirts and sat back down.

“Uh oh!  That one’s got those little hanger marks on the shoulders.  Let me get my iron, and I’ll steam those out for you,” she continued, in her attempt to perfect me.

She left her wheelchair idling, again disappearing into the hallway, only to return seconds later this time with a steam iron and a towel.

Ironing PaintingShe worked my left shoulder, with the towel stuffed through the new shirt’s neck-hole to protect my skin.  In a minute, she had cured that shirt-pucker and switched sides.  My dad and I continued to chat Super Bowl talk across the table as Mother’s attention began to drift back to my left side.  She was not quite satisfied it seems with the amount of “un-puckering” she had accomplished with that initial shoulder procedure.   There was a wrinkle or two still in existence there, and certainly that would never do for an accomplished community theater director such as her son.  She could come back to it later, she thought, but for now she would just fix this side right the first time.

She pressed her thumb down hard on the “steam” button … and fired a thick and steady stream of super-heated water vapor through my new shirt, three folds of towel and at least half the layers of skin that covered my right shoulder, which by the way was perfectly FINE before my visit of this morning.

ironingI leapt across the room, stumbling over Mama’s idling wheelchair.  She just stood there, stunned, holding her iron above her head like a running chain saw.  My dad, who has some trouble these days finding just the right words due to a stroke a few years back, delivered a stream of expletives that were aligned perfectly with my thoughts on the present situation.

“Did that burn you?”  Mother asked, as I jerked the 212-degree-Fahrenheit towel out of my shirt collar, and then, cooling, picked up the two chairs I’d knocked over in my escape attempt.

Maybe I’ll get around to penning the whole epic saga of Virginia Dale Richey some day, but for the moment, I have only a weekly column at my disposal to recount her exploits.

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