Saturday, April 7, 2012

Necessity Is the Mother of All Sorts of Problems

Gosh, I haven't written anything here for a long time. I've been too busy inventing useful and amazing things that nobody, particularly my father, appreciates.

The most important one is the Egg-O-Otto-Uh-O. (It was originally the Egg-0-Otto, but that was before the first few trial efforts.) What happened is that my friend Claude Hinkey wanted to take his baby brother Otto to the Easter Egg hunt sponsored by the Lovely Ladies Local Benefit Auxiliary of the West Wampler Volunteer Fire Company (known as LLLBAOTWWVFC for short). But Otto's only eight months old and doesn't quite understand the concept "egg." Or "basket".

Or, for that matter, the concept of holding on to something. He's going through a spoon phase at the moment. He stuffs the bowl of the spoon in his mouth. He stuffs the handle of the spoon in his mouth. He licks the side of the spoon. He peers soulfully at his reflection in the spoon. And then he just lets go. And when the spoon suddenly isn't there anymore, he wails. (I had breakfast with Claude and Otto last Saturday morning at the Flaming Biscuit Cafe, and we went through all the spoons on three tables.)

Anyway Otto's wail is so loud it's sometimes mistaken for the fire siren. That's nice for Otto's mother because the West Wampler Fire Company watered her daffodils three times last month trying to put out the fire. But at this point the volunteer firemen have gotten a bit annoyed, and I hate to think how they'd feel if they drove their fire truck over all the dyed eggs and scattered the crowd only to discover that the fire was just Otto again. You can see why an egg-hunt-assistance device for Otto was a necessity.

The problem was getting one that worked. I guess we should have hard-cooked the eggs we used to try it out. And practiced outdoors. But the Egg-O-Otto was absolutely foolproof, at least until Otto got hold of it. Claude and I washed the egg out of Otto's hair and off the dining room chandelier. But the side of the corner cupboard still has a faint yellow dribbly design that looks like a painting by one of those artists my father says have the artistic skills of a baby. I guess he's right.

Anyhow, for the second test we used hard-boiled eggs and tucked them under the bushes like a real egg hunt. Otto spotted the eggs all right and bounced up and down like a human milkshake until Claude helped him to use the Egg-O-Otto to pick one up. And Otto did not drop the egg. Instead he shot it onto Mrs. Spocksmutter's front porch, where she was unfortunately sitting at the time. Apparently she thought the Easter Bunny was attacking, and she barricaded herself behind the porch swing. It took the postman ten minutes to calm her down enough so that he could deliver the mail.

We tested two more versions of the Egg-O-Otto, which Otto found some ingenious way to thwart each time. I think the child could grow up to be some kind of rocket scientist. Fortunately, though, nothing else traumatic happened. At least not until my mother was ready to bake a nice lemon meringue pie for dinner and opened the refrigerator to take out the eggs. If she really tried, I believe she could beat Otto in a wailing contest.

Claude and I were forced to buy fresh eggs with our allowance money, and Claude decided to just skip the egg hunt this year. He's going to take Otto to Biffley's Bowl-o-Rama instead and see what he can do with a bowling ball.

P.S. My author just walked in, read this, and insisted that I'm exaggerating. She's a great fan of Otto Hinkey, and she says he never wails; he just makes an adorable little sad sound when the adults around him have tried his patience once too often. Hah. Tell that to the fire company.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Cough in the Hand Is Worth Two in the Nose

I haven't blogged for awhile because of my Aunt Millennia catching a cold. One afternoon she took off her glasses to rest her eyes, and when my friend Claude Hinkey brought his baby brother Otto over for a visit, Aunt Millennia mistook him for the cat and tried to tickle his whiskers. Otto sneezed right in her face, and she caught the cold he'd brought home from daycare as a special treat for his parents.

It was a tragedy because Aunt Millennia couldn't sing for a whole week. (Well, a tragedy for her, not so much for anyone within range of her voice.) In any event, her high C became low C. When she sang out Hellooo! to the mailman, he mistook her voice for Mrs. Boomwaddle's postman-eating German Shepherd and jumped a 6-foot cyclone fence to get away from her. People have often reacted like that to her singing, but never the postman. She was bereft.

So I set right to work inventing the Cough-o-Fred, my new cold prevention system. The biggest difficulty I faced was catching a few of Otto's germs in a cup so I'd have something to work with. The child was totally uncooperative. He socked me in the eye with the cup, drooled on my new wristwatch, socked me in the eye again with a rubber moose, and dug his pointy little nails into my neck. (I considered for a moment inventing a nail-restraining baby glove, but then I figured he'd probably sock me in the eye with it.) Finally I recruited my mom to sing him a lullaby, figuring while he was sleeping I could get a nice cupful of germs. But instead of falling asleep when she sang, he laughed. 

I did catch some of the germs, however. My nose started to itch that very afternoon, and then my throat, and then my ears. I was home from school for five days and missed Ms. Snafu-Fuba's lesson on knitting flagpole covers, which Claude Hinkey said he really liked, especially the part where she knitted her jacket sleeve to the flagpole and the janitor had to cut her loose.

Claude Hinkey never caught the cold. My parents did, though, and my father was really annoyed because he had to miss the Biff-Bop Bowling League championship, where he distinguished himself last year by sliding down the alley and scoring a strike with his left ear. Maybe when my fever goes down, I'll examine Claude and try to figure out what made him immune.

Or maybe not. He said I'd have to catch him first.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

No Time Like the Present

Phew! Bill Yards finally fixed his time machine, and we returned to the present in Wampler, Wisconsin. Well, actually we returned about ten minutes before we left which gives me a chance to write here very briefly before our New Year's Eve celebration. (Bill got safely back to England. Or at least back. He just broadcast a message on his ham radio saying something about the Battle of Hastings.)

Unfortunately I returned to find all sorts of trouble. It seems my author must have a wisdom tooth extracted (a great shame, in my opinion, since she can't afford to lose much wisdom), and she's quite cranky about it. As you can imagine, there's nothing worse for a character than to have a cranky author.

I offered her a ride on Bill's time machine since it's best to take out wisdom teeth before you're 30 - and she's 67 if she's a day. But somehow that suggestion didn't improve her mood at all. So I told her I'd invent a tooth extraction method that would leave behind the wisdom. What she responded to that, I'm not even allowed to print here.

Maybe I should have gone to the Battle of Hastings instead.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

It's About Time

If I haven't been here for awhile, it's because Bill Yards landed his time machine in my backyard the afternoon before New Year's Eve. When my father heard it, he thought Mrs. Fluffledorp down the street had accidentally set off her fireworks early again. But my mother told him, no, it was just the muffler falling off Mr. Henbottom's Packard.

Barf knew what it was though and trotted, tail wagging, to the backyard. She hasn't seen Bill for awhile (not, in fact, since we were stranded in Loch Ness about 37 years before my parents were born). But I guess she remembered that she once found scone crumbs in the butter Bill uses to grease the chronograph in the time machine.  (If you've read my biography, FLAT LIKE FRED, you may remember that the scone belonged to the Queen of England.)

It was the first time Bill's visited here from England, and he wanted to see the Mummer's Parade in Philadelphia on New Year's Day, and then transport back here in time to be part of the finale of the Wampler New Year's Eve fireworks display. Unfortunately the time machine's hour-snag register got stuck on years. We ended up at the 1957 Rose Bowl Parade on a float featuring the Arkanadopolis High School Angels flame-twirling team, and Barf got her tail singed.

We did get safely back to Wampler about half an hour ago, but on the way the minutometer button must have broken. We knew something was wrong as soon as we landed, mostly because the sun was shining. And also because we were sitting on Mrs. Smocksputter's roof. Thank goodness we didn't make a hole in it since she'd just gotten it repaired from my little mishap last week. Or yesterday. Or last year. Or whenever it was.

Bill's behind the garage now tinkering with the time-defunct-factor wheel. I hope he gets it fixed before school starts on January third. I really need to be there. Mr. Binklebang said that if I come up with one more cockamamie excuse for missing a geography test, my grade's going to be in the Arctic range (his idea of a geographical joke for sub-zero), and somehow I think the Arkanadopolis Angels may be about as cockamamie as it can get.

Well, that's all for this post. I'm off to see if I can help Bill. I'll be back again yesterday.

Saturday, December 24, 2011


Claude Hinkey's been really upset because their house doesn't have a chimney and he's worried that this means his new baby brother Otto will not have a proper relationship with Santa Claus. So all this week I worked on my latest invention, the Claus-o-Fred, a self-installing, roof-drilling, temporary chimney.

To be sure nothing would go wrong, I tested it last night on Mrs. Smocksputter's house since she's old and if Santa Claus doesn't visit her, she'll understand. Her niece Gladiolus always visits her on Christmas Eve anyway and a visit from Gladiolus is enough to discourage other visitors.

I didn't think Mrs. Smocksputter would notice the test run, but unfortunately the Claus-o-Fred had to be launched onto her roof with a giant slingshot and it fell a little short. Mrs. Smocksputter seemed a bit peeved about having a chimney in her bathtub. (Actually my mother may be a bit peeved too once she notices that I used her shower curtain to make the slingshot.)

On my second attempt, I successfully landed the Claus-o-Fred on the roof though Mrs. Smocksputter may have to re-plaster her bathroom ceiling. Not to mention fixing the roof. But at least the hole is big enough for Santa to fit through (along with five or six of the reindeer). I just hope it doesn't snow before the roofer can come.

Anyhow, after Mrs. Smocksputter chased us around the block, hurling Michigan Rock cookies, Claude decided that maybe it would be easier if he and Otto just spent tonight at our house. Otto can sleep in my room while Claude and I stand guard in the living room to make sure Blitzen doesn't manage to open the cookie jar again.

In the meantime I'm re-arranging our outdoor Christmas lights. We'll be the only house in Wampler flashing a red-and-green "Merry Otto Hinkey's over here!" sign.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Raccoon in the Hand Is Worth Two in the Trash

This fall my mother's had a problem with a local raccoon who has opened his own trash service in our neighborhood. He carries away all the chicken bones, bread crumbs, and moldy tomato slices. This would be very helpful except that he scatters the rest of the trash everywhere from our front porch pillar to the lower branches of the persimmon tree in Mr. Wompsniffle's yard across the alley.

My father got so tired of telling my mother, "Watch your language!" that he finally bought a new trash can he swore no raccoon could possibly open. Unfortunately neither could my mother. One day last week, she pulled on the lid so hard she fell backwards, got her sleeve caught in the flag on the mailbox, and was nearly swept away by Mr. Henbottom's 1938 Packard. To top it off, she was pretty sure she heard the raccoon chuckling behind the gooseberry bushes.

Naturally I sprang to her assistance and began work on the Lid-o-Lure, an anti-raccoon trash container that my mother could open. As usual, there were a few tiny snags. With Version 1.0, the trashcan rolled down the driveway and spilled trash all over Mumgarden Road. Officer Peepshift happened to be driving by just as three bean cans, a discarded feather pillow, two broken spatulas, and a rotten rutabaga hit the asphalt, so my father got a ticket for littering.

The second version worked better except that my father was pretty annoyed about the bubble gum on his beard. But after what the Forest Service said about the third version (even though the game warden was no longer Super-glued to the raccoon), I decided to try an entirely new approach. It was my best idea in months: a vacuum funnel that enabled my mother to throw trash out the bedroom window. She liked it a lot until the clock radio and her nightgown got sucked into the garbage.

At that point my father - in what I think of as his anti-invention voice - remarked HUMPF! and stormed out to the driveway. What I actually invented, it turned out, was a way to persuade my father to carry the trashcan onto the screened-in porch. Now I just hope the raccoon doesn't have a wire-cutter.

P.S. A final piece of exciting news. My life story, FLAT LIKE FRED, is now available in ebook format for the Nook, Apple i-devices, and most other kinds of ereaders. You can check it out here.

P.P.S Mr. Henbottom said he's finally decided to buy a modern, up-to-date car only he can't find a 1940 Packard anywhere.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

No Moos Is Good Moos

Aunt Millennia's cat, Rover, reminded me this morning that I haven't been posting any cow news here. (In case you're wondering how Rover reminded me, he got another stink bug caught in his throat.  And when he mewed, it sounded more like a moo. Or like Aunt Millennia singing an aria from Carmen.)

As you know if you've read my life story, Flat Like Fred, my best cow friend, Moovine Baley, and I use my invention the Whiz-o-Fred to exchange news between Earth and the planet Bovine. According to this week's moos from Bovine, the cows held a big party in honor of the Moolitzer Prize awarded to Hayward Bucket, the famous cow poet, for his book, Leaves and Grass. 

It was quite a Hay Day. A team of lawn mooers cleared an extra meadow for the event.Anton Checked Cow, the famous cow playwright, wrote a new play for the occasion, The Cheery Orchard, and Moodrian, the famous cow artist, created several new paintings. (When we were on Bovine, my dog Barf spent a happy afternoon viewing Moodrian's paintings at the Barns Mooseum. Most of them were yellow rectangles that looked a lot like bales of hay. "That artist's good," Barf said. "I wonder if he ever painted any fire hydrants.")

Moovine said that Hayward was all dressed up in a three-piece vest. (It was a one-piece vest to begin with, but it burst into thirds and sailed into orbit over the North Pasture when Hayward took a deep breath in the middle of reciting a poem from his new book, The House on Farmland.) Moovine himself had the honor of offering a toast to Hayward. As he lifted his mug and recited:  "The thirst that from the cow doth rise/Doth ask a drink Bovine," Jack Cowerack sprang to his hooves and held up his mug too. "Milk, man," he said.

I could tell from the bits of hay scattered in the envelope that everyone must have had a good time (except, apparently, two of the lawn mooers who had upset stomachs from eating too much meadow).

My friend Mooreen Barnsworthy added a little hoofnote at the bottom of the letter, saying that there may be a special Moolitzer awarded this year, one that will interest me very much. It's being discussed now by the Third Awards Committee. (The First Awards Committee met to discuss the Moolitzer that was awarded to Hayward, and the Second Awards Committee met because Zilla, the High Cow Chairman, likes committees.)

Now I must close this post and write back to tell Moovine about my anti-raccoon trash can invention. I'll post about it here too, but at the moment it's still not quite perfected.