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.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Time Flies and So Do Lunch Boxes

Another week's gone by, and I guess it's time to discuss the long, checkered history of the Tweet-o-Chomp, the flying lunch box that I invented for my best friend, Claude Hinkey.  It all began the day his mother announced that if he forgot his lunch box one more time, she was going to chain it around his neck with a padlock.  (That was also the day Claude shared my peanut butter and jelly sandwich and ate the half that had all the jelly.)

Now it's not hard at all to build a flying lunch box, but somehow some little thing always went wrong.  One lunch box flew through the front window of Wickelfitter's Hardware Store and tried to force its way into a wren house.  Another one built a nest in the steeple of St. Swithin's church, and Claude's chocolate milk almost drowned the boy who rang the bells on Sunday morning.

Even when the lunch boxes actually arrived at school, there were minor difficulties.  Like the time I used pigeon feathers and Claude couldn't get his lunch box down from the school roof.  Or the time I tried warbler feathers and the lunch box chirped all morning outside the window of the home economics room.  Ms. Snafu-Fuba kept mistaking it for her tea kettle and turned the stove on and off so often that the knob fell apart.  She had to leave school early with a headache.  (I suppose I should invent a knobless stove for her, but I've been a little busy lately.)

For two weeks I invented a new lunch box device for Claude every day, but something always went amiss.  Finally Claude pointed out that he'd spent his allowance for the next seven years on lunch boxes and hadn't managed to eat lunch once.  The only remaining option was to build in a homing function so that Claude could blow a whistle and call the lunch box.

As you know if you've read my life story, Flat Like Fred, whistles can be risky.  It was, after all, a whistle that led to the arrival of alien tadpoles in Wampler, Wisconsin (not to mention its leading to Mr. Rugby, our principal, being trampled into a petunia patch by a truckful of stray dogs).  Well, what happened this time was that the lunch box with the homing device summoned all the other lunch boxes.   They gathered on the courthouse lawn (where a traffic clerk who was fond of over-ripe bananas had a memorable lunch).  And then they flew south for the winter.

To speed their flight, the lunch boxes ditched their lunches enroute, and it rained jalapeno pickles and cottage cheese in Elephant Foot, Kentucky.  The last I heard, the lunch boxes had arrived in Oglewarts, Florida, where ornithologists from all over the world were gathering to observe them.  I worry what might happen next spring when the flock migrates north, but for right now, Claude (whose name and address were on his original lunch box) has received a citation from the Audubon Society.

And his mother refuses to pack him any more lunches, so he's still eating half of mine.

Friday, November 25, 2011

No Explosions This Year

Uncle Parsons and Aunt Gertrude came for Thanksgiving dinner again this year even after what happened last year.  As you know if you've read my life story, FLAT LIKE FRED, last Thanksgiving I invented Pop-o-Fred, a cornbread stuffing made with popcorn meal, and my parents are still making payments on the new stove.  (My Great Grandma Floodle claims she heard the explosion in Cincinnati, and she's hard of hearing.) So my father said NO THANKSGIVING INVENTIONS THIS YEAR!

There went my plans for the Maniac-o-Matic that buys, washes, slices, chops, and eats the celery for the stuffing.  (I'm not too fond of celery.)  And the Bog-o-Fred, the cranberry picker-cooker that makes cranberry sauce right in the bog.  And the opera-singing turkey baster, which would have really pleased my Aunt Millennia, who always thought she could have been a world-famous opera star except for her one tiny problem:  she can't sing.  (Not even in the shower.  Last time she tried, her high C cracked six tiles on the bathroom wall and badly damaged the light fixture.)

Right now Aunt Millennia's napping in the chair beside the computer, holding in her lap her cat, Rover.  (Uncle Beaumeister wanted a dog.)  Aunt Millennia never says she's napping;  she always says she's "resting her eyes."  But if she slumps forward in her chair another inch, she's going to be in trouble with the SPCA for suffocating Rover.  Maybe I should invent a cat-shaped, snore-activated, shock-generating protective shield, the Snooze-o-Puss.

First, though, I need to make a few refinements to the Tweet-o-Chomp, the flying lunchbox that I invented for my best friend, Claude Hinkey.  He forgets his lunch about four times a week, and then he eats half of mine.  One time he tried duct-taping his lunchbox to his wrist so he wouldn't forget it, but halfway to school his nose itched and when he scratched it, he almost knocked out two front teeth.  So far I've made several versions of the Tweet-o-Chomp, but it still has a few kinks.

More about that next time.  I have to go now.  Aunt Millennia's started to sing in her sleep.  Rover's already scratching at the door to leave.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Reviews Are In!

Here, at last, are the first reviews for Flat Like Fred. I believe they speak for themselves:

"The best book ever written about my son, Fred Floodle."
----Emma K. Floodle, unbiased reviewer

"A definite 6-woof book."
----Barf Floodle, dog

"A very moooving story."
----LaBelle Thistlenip, cow

"Silly cows, backfiring inventions, over-the-top puns, a principal whose toupee is launched into outer space!  What more could a reader want?  I adored it!"
----Prefers to remain anonymous since after all he has a certain reputation to maintain

"A ridiculous book with absolutely no redeeming social importance and a total disregard for proper literary conventions."
----Wadsworth G. Stuffington

That last review, I believe, suggests that 99% of the reading public might like this book.  (I also believe the reviewer stole his description from this blog.)

Other reader comments are very welcome.  If you'd prefer to read the book before commenting on it, you can find it by clicking on this link: Flat Like Fred.

And now I must sneak away before my author comes in here to read her email.  She said she wants nothing whatsoever to do with my blog because her tongue tends to hurt when she keeps it in her cheek too long.

Monday, November 14, 2011

We Have Lift-Off

Here's the cover for FLAT LIKE FRED (illustration copyright Benjamin Pannell).

I am so excited to tell you that my very first ebook, the ebook about my life story, (or at least that part of it that has to do with alien tadpoles, the Loch Ness monster, my accidental discovery of the Planet Bovine, and Bill Yards' time machine) is now available at Amazon.

This post will be short because I'm sneaking it in while my author is petting the cat.  She's not at all sure she likes the idea of my having a blog.  (If you think mothers are bad, you ought to have an author.  She tries to control everything I do.)  For a long time she kept this book hidden in a closet for fear that it might tarnish her literary reputation.  (Well, really.  What was she thinking?)            

As the hero of this story, I'd like to believe that at last she came to her senses.  But actually I suspect it finally occurred to her that she doesn't have a literary reputation.  So what the hay?  Why not set loose the cows?  Whatever the case, Moovine Baley, LaBelle Thistlenip, Zilla the High Cow Chairman, and all the other cows can now gallop right into your very own Kindle.  I'm signing off now to send this wonderful news to all my friends on the planet Bovine.  And to work on some new invention, so I'll have something wonderful, well, exciting, well, probably catastrophic to blog about.

P.S.  Don't forget that you can read the first chapter of FLAT LIKE FRED in the first post below.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Why I Am Here

The reason I'm here is because the cows on the planet Bovine (where the cow who jumped over the moon landed) helped me to escape from alien tadpoles and return to earth safely.  Well, not entirely safely if I think about the Loch Ness monster...but that's a long story.  And the reason I'm here here - on this blog - is because that long story will very soon be available in ebook form.

I imagine you're familiar with the famous expression "Flat Like Fred."  And probably you've heard about the terrible mouse elephant rampages on Bovine and the invasion of alien tadpoles in Wampler, Wisconsin.  But do you know what three mistakes Fred Floodle (that's me) made on that fateful Wednesday when it all began?

Well, if you'd like to know, you can read the first chapter of the book below, in the very first post on this blog.  And if you are someone who likes that sort of  silliness, with no adherence to proper literary values and no  redeeming social importance whatsoever, you're my kind of person.  (And also the kind of person who might want to read the rest of the story, which you can find on, under the title FLAT LIKE FRED.)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Tadpoles Are Falling on My Head

Here it is, the first chapter of Flat Like Fred:
   It was a school day.  The alarm clock Fred Floodle had invented, which he called the Fred-o-Matic, woke him in the usual way that morning.  First a long metal arm with a needle attached poked Fred sharply in the stomach.  When he screamed, another long metal arm reached out and stuffed a marshmallow into his mouth.

   Fred opened his eyes, which were blue and bulgy.  He rubbed his stomach, which was pink and bulgy.  Then he ran one hand through his hair, which was blond and looked like it had been cut with a lawnmower.  Chewing the marshmallow, he heaved himself out of bed.

   That was Fred's first mistake.  He took two steps, tripped over his dog (who was sleeping in the middle of the floor, with her paws sprawled in four different directions), and fell on his face.  "Oh, Barf!" he said.

   Barf was the dog's name.  Her fur was black with a few small reddish-brown patches that looked like squashed tomatoes.  Next to Barf, the hound of the Baskervilles would have looked like a midget.  Whenever anyone bothered Fred, he simply said, "Eat that person's head, Barf."  No one ever hung around to see what would happen next (which was lucky since what happened was that Barf wagged her tail and drooled).

   She did that now and then began to lick Fred's bare feet.

   "Cut that out!" Fred said, yanking his toes out of reach.  He'd coated them the night before with Protect-o-Fred, the new anti-licking wax he'd invented.  But it still wasn't working right.  Fred kept trying to make it taste like something Barf hated, only she didn't hate anything.  Judging by the remains on the floor, she'd recently eaten half a sweat sock.

   Reaching behind him, Fred turned on a piece of machinery that was sticking out of a half-open bureau drawer.  Carefully he spoke into a long tube which would probably give Fred's mother a heart attack when she found out that it was no longer attached to her vacuum cleaner.  After six seconds of buzzing, the machine barked: Growf woof-wff-wff snorp!  Fred hoped that meant, "Get your soggy tongue off my foot, you flea-bitten nitwit!"

   This machine, the Fred-o-Bark, would translate Dog into English too, but Fred couldn't persuade Barf to bark into the speaking tube.  So far she'd bitten it in half three times.  Fred had patched it together with duct tape, but his mother was going to have a hard time vacuuming into corners.

   The only time Fred and Barf had truly communicated was on the day they'd met.  Fred had been visiting his Grandmother Frickle, who baked the worst rhubarb pies in the northern hemisphere.  That day she'd set a batch of them on her kitchen windowsill to cool.  Fred was sitting at the kitchen table, wishing he had time to invent a pie-destroying machine before supper, when he heard a strange noise outside.  Something halfway between a slurp and a woof.

   Suddenly a huge black head appeared at the window.  Its ears flapped in the wind.  Its enormous mouth opened.  Sloop!  Wurf!  Its jaws closed on one of the pies.  Clang!  The head looked surprised.  "Ptui!" it said and spat out the pie pan, slightly bent but licked clean.

   "Good dog!" Fred said (having decided the animal was not a buffalo).  He got up.  By the time he reached the kitchen window, the dog was spitting out the last pie tin.

   "You ate three of Grandma Frickle's rhubarb and vinegar pies?!" Fred said.  "Who are you?  What's your name?"

   The dog wagged a tail the size of a tree branch and licked the edge of the windowsill.  "Barf!" she said.

   "I believe it!" Fred said.

   At first Fred's parents didn't want him to keep Barf.  But when they found out it was Barf's fault that Grandma Frickle didn't have rhubarb and vinegar pie for supper, they had to admit the dog deserved a good home.

   Since that day, Barf had devoted her life to licking Fred's feet.  "Stop it!" Fred shouted now.  Muttering under his breath some words it isn't nice to mutter, he put on a sweat sock and a half and looked out his bedroom window.

   It was raining.  "Oh, no, it's Monday!" he said.  It always rained on Mondays in Wampler, Wisconsin.

   And that was Fred's second mistake.  In fact, it was Wednesday, and Wednesday was Fred's bad day.  Usually on Wednesdays, Fred woke with a peculiar tingle in the back of his neck, which warned him to be careful.  But that particular morning his tingler wasn't working.  And so when he saw the rain, he said, "Mondays are so boring.  I wish something unusual would happen today."

   Always a dangerous wish, but especially on Wednesdays.

   Slowly Fred got dressed.  This was the worst Monday he could remember.  He was as tired as if he'd put in several days of school already.  And the rain this morning was the ugliest rain he'd ever seen.  The raindrops were short, squat, and greenish-gray like tadpoles.

   Sadly Fred left the room.  He didn't even remember to put on his sneakers.  Barf followed.

   In the next room, Fred's father was snoring.  It sounded like the section of the 1812 Overture where someone shoots off a cannon.  "I'm going outside," Fred whispered to Barf, "and take a closer look at that weird rain."

   And that was his third mistake.  The moment he stepped outside the back door, with Barf at his heels, Fred realized why the raindrops looked like tadpoles.  They were tadpoles.