January 23, 2014


Picking up where we left off last week:  my six bookcases and desk were finally delivered from Office Max, I'm now out of the hospital, and the time has come to put the damned things together.  Oh, yes.  I have to put them together all by myself.

First, the bookcases.  According to the box, no tools are necessary for assembly, and each case only takes twenty minutes to put together.  Buoyed by that statement, I opened the first box and ripped open my right hand on some sort of packing crap…I think it may be called a brad or a staple or, hell, Mildred Pierce for all I know!

Following a quick trip to the emergency room and 57 stitches, with the promise of a 50/50 chance of being able to use my thumb again, I set to.

I yanked at the boards in the box.  Nothing.  They were stuck.  I sat down on the floor, braced the box with my feet, and really put my back into it.  Out flew a long board, narrowly missing my head before embedding itself in my wall.  Try as I might to remove it, it became clear that  board and plaster had plighted their trough, and would be joined there for all time.

I stepped back and surveyed the destruction; much like van Gogh would step back from a painting in progress just prior to cutting off some body part or other.  To sum up, I now had clotted, drying blood all over my beige oriental rug and a six-foot board sticking out of my wall, looking as if it were shot there by some gigantic deranged Indian.

What to do?

I grabbed two stools, placed one on each side of the board, and called it a "Breakfast Nook."

Being a humorist and therefore having no capacity for self-preservation, I opened another bookcase box.

Out charged the biggest rat I've ever seen since Humphrey Bogart in The Roaring Twenties.

My ferret, Gizmo, took a great deal of interest in this rat, and in a frenzy, managed to get out of his cage and make a beeline for Mickey Mouse on PCP.  The fact that this rodent was twice the size of Giz didn't seem to bother him at all.  He latched onto the hairless tail with all the might and killer instinct that a two pound animal can muster, and proceeded to be dragged around the room by this panic-stricken, shrieking rodent.  Vases toppled and smashed gaily on the floor.  Plants were overturned and trampled.  Bric-a-brac didn't stand a chance as the rat scrambled up onto furniture with my ferret still attached to his nether regions.  Watching him try to get shed of Giz reminded me of kids playing "Crack the Whip" at ice skating rinks.

But Gizmo would not be moved.  Well, that's not entirely true.  He'd allow himself to be dragged around the apartment like a dust mop, but that tail was going to remain firmly clenched in his fangs.

Finally, the rat got tired of it all, reached back and gave Gizmo a roundhouse punch in the nose.  It surprised him enough to let go, and the rat legged it to parts unknown, leaving me with an embarrassed, ashamed ferret to comfort.  After two hours of assuring him that I didn't think he was a pantywaist, I returned to the bookcases.

The rat was still at large, but I didn’t care anymore.

I emptied the box of its selection of boards and little hardware doodads that I assumed I'd be needing, and picked up the instructions…which were written in German!

I am nothing if not game, so I laid the pieces out in what looked like the appropriate arrangement, and started putting in dowels and screwing in screws…for the next three hours.

"Twenty minutes! @$%#%$#% Office Max!   @$**%#$#% bookcases!  And mostly, %$#@$#@%#%#% Germans who don't have the decency to provide English instructions!" I remarked.

At any rate, at the end of three hours, the swearing was done and I stepped back to drink in the full impact of my creation.

It didn't look like a bookcase.

It looked more like a chicken coop in a slum. 

I took it apart and tried again.

This time, it was a ghastly recreation of my ex-husband that I knew would haunt me until the day I died.

Some would call me "persistent," others might opt for "idiot," but I gave it one more try.

My final effort resembled something out of an Irwin Allen movie, and  the rat immediately moved into it…to give birth.  Though I had to relocate them to a shoebox, I am keeping her family nice and warm.
Guess what I'm using for firewood?

January 17, 2014


I made the grave error of buying something from Office Max, a/k/a "Temple of Doom."

But let me backtrack a bit.

Having moved into a new apartment, and living alone for the first time in my life, I discovered I was woefully unprepared to deal with setting the place up.  For one thing, I am a book fanatic, and have a personal library of over 6,000 volumes.  Unfortunately, I had not one bookcase to my pitiful name.  The time had come, as the Walrus said, to stop threading my way through my living space around ten-foot vertical piles of books.

Being somewhat frugal at this point in my life, I naturally checked the Sunday circulars to see who might be having a sale.  After flipping through Circuit City, Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Sam's, and a place called "Jimmy's House of Edible Lubricants" flyers, I came upon an ad from Office Max.  To my delight, they were having a great sale on, not only the bookcases I needed, but also on computer desks.  The clouds parted.  Seraphim sang in perfect harmony.  A ray of sunlight fell across my face--a face that was covered with grateful tears.

Who says God doesn't have a sense of humor?

I high-tailed it down to Office Max, humming all the way.  I danced in the front door, only to find…ground zero when the shit bomb hit.

I had never seen such disorder in my entire life.  If ever a place of business looked as though it had been picked up 2000 feet and dropped, this was it.  But, undaunted (well, okay, maybe a little bit daunted) and spurred on the by the great prices, I stumbled forward.

Upon finding the desk/bookcase area, I glanced around for a salesperson.


Finally, I ran serpentine through the mess and inquired at the customer service desk.  I was sent a salesperson forthwith.  Or, as forthwith as I could get, anyway.

After about twenty minutes, a wizened man three days older than dirt tottered up to me.  "Can help you, Miss?"  he rasped.

Stifling the urge to reply, "Gee, may I help you," I told him of my mission.

"I'll have to check out back to see if we have any more left," he said, and in the style of Tim Conway's little old man, shuffled off to the nether regions.

Thirty-five minutes later, he returned, and I noticed that he was wearing one of those Mission Impossible type black headsets.   I wondered if this was really the image they wanted to project to a shopper in their establishment.

"I'm sorry, Miss, but we'll have to order them for you," he said.

"Why?  The circular was just released this morning!  How could you possibly have sold out of them already?"

"I just work here, Miss.  I don't know."

"Ah, that sounds familiar.  Just following orders?"

"That's right, Miss.  The order desk is right this way."

I shrugged and followed him.  It didn't really make that much difference, I supposed.  I'd done without them this long; a few more days wouldn't matter.

At the desk, their latest twelve-year-old hire greeted me with a highly professional, "Yeah?"

"I need to order six bookcases and a computer desk."  I'd brought the circular with me, so I pointed out exactly what I wanted.  "Please have them delivered on a Tuesday."

"Lady, you can't just pick a day like that!"

"Then this is the only store in American where I can't!" I retorted.

Another twelve-year-old, drawn by the raised voiced, sauntered over.  "Sure she can," he said.

This resulted in a filthy look from moron number one, and additional typing.  Oh, I could see tense times at recess today!

"What's your phone number?"

I gave it to him.


I repeated it.

"Excuse me?"

I repeated it.

"OK.  Is it 236-8799?"

"Close.  646-5086."

"What was that again?"

After another five minutes of this delightful banter, I gave it to him in semaphore and American Sign Language, and I think he finally got it.

"That's $476.00.  Your order will be delivered on Tuesday between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm."

"Can you be any more specific than that?"

"No," he said, handing me my receipt.

"Well, you're welcome, of course.  And I must say, it's been a wonderful, friendly experience, and I think I'll have you all over for a big cookout this summer!" I snarled, snatching my receipt and stomping out the door.

I wondered what the odds were that I could actually receive the items I ordered.

So, Tuesday morning came, and I bounded out of bed to the jangling of the alarm clock.  This is not easy to do on a day off, but I did it, because I wanted to be ready when they arrived.

I waited all day and the only person who showed up was a Jehovah's Witness, looking for heathens. I sent him to the apartment below me, but not before telling him that he might want to stop back tomorrow, because by then I will have committed a murder.

"Oh.  You ordered something from Office Max, didn't you?" he asked. "Believe me, God will understand.  He may even help you."

I thanked him, gave him a cookie, and directed him downstairs.  Misery loves company, don't you know.

At 5:15, desperately trying to keep my voice from sounding like something out of "The Exorcist," I placed a call of Office Max.

"Office Max.  How may I direct your call?"

"The store manager, please," I said.

"Hello, this is Wayne."  Good God!  His voice hadn't even changed yet!

I told him my tale of woe.  No matter what I said, he replied with, "I can certainly understand how you feel."

Finally, after the fourth time he said that, I asked, "How can you possibly understand how I feel?  Have you bought something from Office Max recently?"

"Oh, no!  I'm a whole lot smarter than that!"

"Yes, you probably are," I sighed. "How are you at ducking throwing knives?"


"Oh, no reason.  Just call the warehouse and find out what happened, will you please?" I asked.  "And then call me back and let me know what's what."


After twenty minutes, Wayne called me back.

"It seems that there was some damage to some items on the truck, and they couldn't be delivered," he sniveled.

"And when was this reported, Wayne?"


"Pardon me?  I didn't hear you."

"At noon."

"AT NOON!  And you couldn't be bothered to pick up the phone and let me know?  I've been sitting around my apartment all day with my thumb where the sun don't shine, and you're telling me that your people knew AT NOON that the delivery wasn't going to be made?  Is that what you're telling me, Wayne?"

"Um, yes?"

"Hold on, Wayne.  I have to run and stick my head into a bucket of cold water so it won't EXPLODE!  Don't go anywhere!"

When I returned to the line, I was considerably calmer.


After screaming myself hoarse, we decided that the items would be delivered the following Tuesday, when I would again be at home for the day.  In return, I agreed not to lie in wait for Wayne in the parking lot with the intention of chewing his leg off.

During the balance of the week, I said twenty-three Novenas, sacrificed three white roosters, and danced naked by a fire in the light of the full moon.  Confident that I had all bases covered, when Tuesday rolled around, I again leapt from the covers early, and waited with, as Dickens would have said, great expectations.

At 12:30, there was a tap at my door.  Sure it was the delivery, I flung it open.

On my welcome mat stood a short, fat creature who looked like he just crawled out of a pipe.  "Delivery from Office Max," he mumbled.

"Fine!  Bring it on in!" I cried.

"Nope.  I was told that this was a dock-to-dock delivery.  I don't get paid to haul this stuff up two flights of stairs.  There are eight boxes in the truck and they're really heavy."

"Do you mean to tell me that they sent you out all by yourself, with no help?"

"Yeah, lady, and I have a bad back like you wouldn't believe."

"My friend, once I get through with your boss, he's going to wish a bad back was ALL he had!"

Door shuts.  Short, fat deliveryman exits stage left.  Our protagonist grabs the phone and dials Office Max.

"How may I direct your call?"


"I'm sorry, but he's tied up at the moment."


"One moment."

Thirty seconds later, my buddy, Wayne, arrives.



"Oh my God.  What happened?"

He didn't have to ask ME twice.  He got such an earful, it was leaking out his nose!

When I finally lost my voice, Wayne said he'd call the warehouse and see if they could get the short, fat deliveryman some help and send him back over.

"Fine," I croaked.

Two hours later, another tap at my door.  I said a quick prayer of thanks to any deity that cared to listen, and opened up.

It was the Jehovah's Witness again.

"Hello.  I just thought I'd stop by to see if you needed any calming down."

"How on earth did you know?"

"You're dealing with Office Max, my child."

"Right.  Please come in."

We talked for hours and he calmed me down considerably…until I glanced at the clock.


"Now, Carson, remember what we discussed…forgiveness, serenity, patience…"

"OH, BLOW IT OUT YOUR ASS!" I suggested, scrabbling for the phone.

"Office Max.  How may I direct your call?"

I shrieked into the receiver.

"Oh, hello, Ms. Buckingham.  I'll get Wayne for you."

"Hello, this is Way…"


"Oh, Ms. Buckingham…hello.  Did your delivery arrive?"


Wayne, fearing for his life, came up with a cunning plan.  The items would be delivered the following evening at 6:30, when I would be home from work.


The next evening, I actually allowed myself to feel hopeful.  I arrived at home at 6:20 and walked up the stairs, only to discover that my doorway was completely walled in, 'Cask of Amontillado' style, by eight huge boxes!

After I finished banging my head against the wall and shuffling these monoliths out of the way, I propped open my door and dragged eight boxes, easily weighing about 150 pounds each, into my abode.
As a result of all this heavy lifting, I am now in the hospital.  They want to put me in traction to correct my back problem and relieve my pain, but the traction machine is broken.

They're waiting for a part from the medical division of Office Max.

I may just slit my wrists and save them the trouble.


January 10, 2014


As the Arizona winter moves into spring and grass and trees surround us, I can't help but focus on the color green--mainly because I don't have any.

Money, that is.

I finally decided, after years of self-employment, that I'd better get my butt back into the mainstream before bank officials showed up at the door with howitzers in hand and a song in their hearts.

Now, I've been out of the job interview scene--that uplifting, make you glad you're a human being scene--for quite a while.  Having worked the past few hundred years as a freelance writer, I had completely forgotten what it was like. 

Well, let me amend that.

 Not only had I forgotten what it was like, but it  had changed and gotten worse while my back was turned.

By the time my first foray into this wonderland was over, I was fully prepared to fling myself into the nearest wood chipper.  The advertised job was for a copywriter at a local advertising agency (read that: "equine manure pit").  With a score of years writing ad copy freelance, I was reasonably confident about my chances and strolled into the office at the appointed hour with a gentle smile plastered across my mug.

Then, I got my first clue.

The receptionist had neon pink hair, a live python draped around her shoulders, and a tattoo of either Satan or Tony Danza that spread across her entire face!  She was also puffing so hard on a stogie that area Indian tribes had responded to the smoke by leaving the casinos and assembling in the agency lobby.

"Whatcha need, hon?" she inquired professionally, holding aloft a live rat, presumably for her snake, but at that point, I was unprepared to make such assumptions.  A coffee break is a coffee break, I guess, and who am I to judge?

"Uh, I have a ten o'clock with Mr. Remson."

"'Kay."  She punched a few numbers on her console, then leaned back and grinned at me, revealing a mouth full of dentition that had been filed down to lethal points.  I considered running; but then remembered reading somewhere that if you show fear, they attack, so I stayed put.

"Ah, you must be Carson," observed a tall person type as he stepped out of the inner sanctum.  "I'm Bill Remson, the Creative Director."

Oh, he was creative, all right.  He had on a suit that Spike Jones would have given a cocktail or two for, facial hair that ZZ Top would have given their shades for, and a three-foot earring that I didn't give a hoot for.

"Walk this way."

Resisting the urge to perpetuate that old joke just one more time, I followed him to his office.

Boys and girls, I want to tell you that creativity has really taken a nasty turn since I was last in the old nine-to-five.  This "Director's" office was festooned with the following:

          A silver service for eight

          A service revolver

          A poster of Wally Cox

          One fuzzy die

          A plastic turkey
          Four blonde wigs
          A disconnected toilet
          Six stuffed and mounted gerbils doing the Can-Can

          Fifty-two copies of Erich Fromme's The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness

          And a partridge in a pear tree…really.

"Wow," I remarked, surveying the premises.  "You must be in the middle of some campaign!"

"No, actually we're rather slow at the moment."

I sat down in an oversize pair of red lips which I hoped and prayed was actually a chair, and unzipped my portfolio.

"A portmanteau!  How very quaint," he exclaimed.

Oh, God.

For the next twenty minutes, I displayed my award-winning work, which he flipped through quickly, looking only at the pictures therein.  This is a phenomenon I can never understand and more conventional people that this Hottentot do it.  They're interviewing a writer, but don't read one word the writer has written.

It was the only normal thing he did for the entire interview.

"Hmmm.  Seems as though you've been unemployed for quite some time," he mused.

"No, I've been self-employed."

"Same difference," he concluded, waving a dismissive hand.  "Now, let's see, you're…um…(he referred to my application)…what?  48?  Hmmmm.  I'm 50.  Hmmmm," he said, appraising me with a gimlet eye.  "Okay!  You're hired!"


"But lose the business suit!  I bet you'd look great in really tight jeans, underwear optional."

By now the interview had morphed into a Salvatore Dali painting.

As I ran past the Dawn of the Dead snake handler at the front desk, I decided that there were worse things than not having any money.

Much worse.

Interviews, for instance. 

I have another one this Friday.


January 3, 2014


Okay, the holidays are over and Stij and I had put on a few pounds that we needed to get rid of, so I decided to do a little research and find some low calorie but decent-tasting recipes to take care of it.
Can anyone who reads this column regularly see the problem here?
I pulled out some dusty cookbooks entitled, Gravel,Twigs and a Healthy Diet, Vegans are NOT Out to Kill You by Starvation, and Low Calorie Recipes for Flavor.
Stij was out in the shop making cabinets, so I’d be uninterrupted in my culinary experiments.  I flipped open Gravel, Twigs and a Healthy Diet and found, of all things, a recipe for Shepherd’s Pie, with a few substitutions, of course.  So I located wallpaper paste (can’t be eating potatoes), popcorn (lower in calories than sweet corn), and soy meal (mixed with a little dirt for color—it looked just like lamb!) and I set to.
First, I had to grease the Pyrex pan, but not with standard cooking oil.  WAY too many calories.  I used crankcase oil instead with no calories at all—it smelled a little funny, though.  I layered my ingredients, then shoved the pan into the oven.
An hour later, Stij came in for supper.  He sniffed the air.  “Did the toilet back up again?” he asked.
“It did not.  That’s dinner you smell.”
“Ah.  Roadkill tonight?”
“Very funny.  It happens to be Shepherd’s Pie.”
“Really.  Where did you get the recipe?”
“It’s out of a cookbook on dieting.”
“I see.  And who wrote this book?  Lucretia Borgia?  And what are you doing cooking, anyway?  I thought we discussed this.”
“We did, but I figured that the bread incident, the Christmas cookies, and the lawsuits are far enough behind us that I could give it another try.”
“You know, I can’t afford to re-build this house a third time.”
“It’s been in the oven for the past hour without a problem.  Stop worrying.”
Then the first of a fusillade of explosions began.
My mind, dizzy with all the weight we would be losing, hadn’t thought to mention that I needed to pop the popcorn before substituting it for sweet corn.
The oven door blew off its hinges (I’d used a LOT of popcorn) and flew across the room, lodging, black and smoking, in the back wall.  The room rapidly filled with crankcase-oil coated popcorn that was now filthy and on fire.  The wallpaper paste just oozed out of the pan and hardened like a cinderblock onto the hardwood floor.
Stij, who now wore a fire extinguisher on his belt at all times, raced through the house and put out the curtains, the furniture, and the cat.
He slogged back through the foam.  “You know Stephen King personally, don’t you?”
“No.  Why?”
“Oh, come on.  It’s not that bad this time.”
“The stove is coming out tomorrow, and so is the microwave.”
“How will we cook our food?”
“We will eat cold food.”
“But it’s 32 degrees out!”
“We will turn up the heat and eat cold food.”
But I plan to surprise him with a hot meal tomorrow night.
We have a grill outside.