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Charlie Hatton
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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Y’Know, I’ve Seen Some Ants Around Here, Too. Can I Claim Them?

More inane drivel than you can shake a stick at!

So, one of the many perks of not having a job is that you get to file for unemployment benefits.

(And, since you asked, some of the others include sleeping until you damned well feel like getting up, declaring Thursdays shave-free (and shower-optional!), watching SportsCenter reruns over and over until you can ‘Boo-yah!‘ along with Stuart Scott as he rattles through the highlights, wearing pajamas until the dog absolutely has to be escorted outside, and finding out how many olives you can stuff into your mouth at one time. Which is twenty-eight, by the way. Did I mention that I might have just a teensy bit too much time on my hands?)

Anyway — leaving my borderline-psychotic behavior aside — filing for unemployment actually isn’t nearly as teeth-gnashingly frustrating as you’d expect something run entirely by the government to be. Oh, sure, some of the questions asked by the nice young man on the other end of the phone call were a little odd — for example:

Are you currently employed?‘ Um… no. D’ya think they weed a lot of people out with this question?

Are you looking for work?‘ Well, yeah. Do people usually wait until the bon-bons run out to start job hunting?

Are you doing any part-time work?‘ Ah… no. If I’m not employed, I’m not working at all, right? Is this a trick question?

Have you received unemployment benefits from our office in the past twelve months?‘ Dude, if your system doesn’t even go back a year… come on.

But he was just doing his job, so I tried not to be too much of a smart-ass. On the other hand, when he asked:

Do you have any dependents to claim under your benefits?

I seized the opportunity and listed my dog, my house, and my car. Was that wrong?

The way I figure it, ‘dependent’ roughly translates to ‘going to fall into disarray and be taken away from me if I don’t have money to throw at it’. That’s the way it works with kids, and I’m guessing the same thing would happen to my dog, car, and house, so what’s the difference? What’s good for the child is good for the pit bull, as the old saying goes. Or ought to go, anyway.

So, of course, I had to ad-lib a little to pull this off. My dog has a name, of course (Susie), and — luckily enough — so does my car. My car’s name is Betty. I named her Betty because she’s silver — well, ‘sterling mist’, to be precise, but that’s a bit too formal for her tastes. Anyway, I gave it a lot of thought, and I realized that there’s a Betty White, and there’s Brown Betty, and there’s even a Black Betty (or two, or three), but the world has never had a Silver Betty before. So now we have — you can thank me later. Really, it’s the least I could do.

Anyway, I was in the clear for the dog and the car. Plus, when the guy wanted social security numbers for each, I could give him Susie’s license number, and the VIN off of Betty’s dashboard. Two for two — yay! But I wasn’t done yet. When he asked whether I had any more ‘dependents’, I had to go for the big one.

Yeah. Just one more,‘ I said.

Okay,‘ he replied. ‘What’s the name?

What, indeed? Now I was on the spot. I had to come up with a name — the name — for our house, and with no time to think about it. And I couldn’t back out now — how would you get out of it at that point? ‘Oh, I’m sorry. I thought I had another kid, but it’s actually a garden gnome.‘ Or, ‘Never mind. I do have another dependent right now, but he’s really not working out, anyway. I’ll probably just end up setting him out by the curb to be recycled.

So clearly, I had to come up with something, and it had to be good. Not for the flunkie taking down the name, of course. Any ‘Elbert’ or ‘Dingus’ or ‘Maggie Lou’ would do for him. No, it had to be good, and damned good, because the house was going to hear me say it. And the last thing you want to do is to piss your house off by giving it a bad name. Call the house ‘Fannie Ray’, and the next thing you know, the walls’ll start bleeding and the bed’ll be levitating off the floor. I watch horror movies, goddamn it, and you do not piss off the house. Ever.

But I hadn’t really thought about it before, either, and I hadn’t the time to do it now. How would the house feel about ‘Scott’? Or ‘Mary’? Hey, it’s a ‘Queen Anne Victorian‘; what about ‘Anne’ or ‘Victoria’? Nah — ‘Anne House’ would sound too much like ‘Anne Heche’, and I don’t think our house is lesbian. For one thing, none of the doors swing both ways. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you — I just don’t think it fits our particular abode. And Victoria wouldn’t work, either — our house is ninety-nine years old, and I’d always be worried that ‘Victoria’s Secret’ was a skeleton of some kind in the closet. Well, not just some kind — I mean a real skeleton in an actual closet. Who knows what’s gone on here since the turn of the century? That’s practically caveman times, for Crissakes. People probably ate each other just to survive back then.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, I was running out of time. ‘Herbert House’? No. ‘Harriet House’? Doubt it. ‘Hildegard House’? Decidedly not. The guy cleared his throat at me. I didn’t know what to do. Finally, I blurted out the next thing that popped into my head.

Me: Klaus.

Him: I’m sorry. What was that?

Me: Um, Klaus? His name is Klaus?

Him: Klaus?

Me: Mmm-hmm. Klaus.

Him: Klaus.

Me: Yeah.

Him: That’s what you’re going with, is it?

Me: Um, yeah.

Him: Okay. Klaus it is, then. Good luck with that one.

So I gave him our mortgage account number as the SSN, and I was done. I was off the hook for the moment, but in the meantime, I created a monster. Klaus. Klaus House. Oh, shit. I fully expect a booming German voice to order me to ‘Get aht of the haus!‘ tonight. Or for sauerkraut to sprout out of the floorboards and start crawling up our legs. Or a ghostly oompah band to parade through our bedroom playing spooky polkas. Or maybe not. Hey, maybe the house digs the Oktoberfest feel, and it’ll be beer that oozes down the walls. Now that would kick ass. Nothing like a pint of paranormal brau with the frau, eh?

The way I figure it, now the race is on. If the house is pissed about the new moniker, then it’ll start screwing with our minds soon, and drive us out or insane, whichever comes first. In the meantime, as soon as the folks in the unemployment office look up the fake numbers I’ve given them, they’ll be sending someone over to lock me away. Whether in jail or a padded room remains to be seen, but to lock me away, nonetheless. Which will give me the last laugh, of course. Once I’m incarcerated, there’s no way I’ll get a job, and then Susie and Betty and Klaus will be moved to a foster home (and a foster garage, and a foster neighborhood, respectively). Then we’ll see how ‘dependent’ they were on me, won’t we? That’ll teach those government hard-asses! Yeah!

Oh, I am so screwed…

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