The Struggling Humorist was in deep shit. The sacred crust of denial that held his domestic situation intact was crumbling. One of the Struggling Humorist’s benefactors had called his cell and found that instead of a standard outgoing message, the Struggling Humorist’s inbox greeted callers with a mash-up of ironic or otherwise self-deprecating pop snippets.
Call me when you’re down
I’m a loser baby
Boom boom boom boom I want to double-boom
So call me maybe
The Struggling Humorist had dedicated several hours to orchestrating and recording the mix. He was very proud of it. The fact that nobody ever called him, or, if they did, would certainly never leave a voicemail, was, as he tried to explain over dinner, part of the joke.
The Struggling Humorist’s benefactor said that the greeting was extremely unprofessional. No serious job seeker would have it attached to the contact information included on their resume. Furthermore, the benefactor had conducted some forensic accounting and uncovered a few troubling transactions. Certain funds had been transferred from the Emergency Budget to the Entertainment Budget without prior approval. And as if that wasn’t enough, a college friend of the benefactor—perfectly nice, willing to help—still had not heard from the Struggling Humorist. The benefactor offered a red-faced ultimatum.
The Struggling Humorist skipped dessert and looked at yurts online.
The Struggling Humorist revised his resume, pruning any accomplishments or degrees that might give potential employers pause.
The Struggling Humorist surveyed the local sprawl, pained by the possibilities. A cousin had spent three years casting about southeast Asia and everyone treated him like some swashbuckling market disruptor. Why couldn’t the Struggling Humorist do the same in southeast Connecticut?
The Struggling Humorist had a love-hate relationship with his car’s seat heater. First it was cold, then it was warm. But his cockles remained chilled.
The Struggling Humorist filled out applications (the resumes, they do nothing!) at a chain bakery, a discount smoke shop, and a dry cleaners, racking his phone for references.
The Struggling Humorist was usually pretty relaxed during job interviews. This was because he knew no matter how well the meeting went he wouldn’t return any follow-up phone calls, much less accept an offer. He began to recite his personal customer service philosophy. But his seething benefactor had unnerved him. Without that sturdy crust of denial his life was just a dish of bittersweet slop.
The Struggling Humorist came home to a note in excitable script on the kitchen counter: MESSAGE FOR YOU!
The Struggling Humorist didn’t recall giving out his home number. He had learned his lesson after a rogue temp agency administrator used an Emergency Contact form to place a call to a benefactor and “check in” following an improbably timed (July 5th) medical call-out.
The Struggling Humorist stood in the dark corner, wavering over the blinking answering machine and day-dreamed about the sudden emergence of a rich, childless uncle.
The Struggling Humorist was lousy with rich second-cousins.
The Struggling Humorist returned to the dry cleaners. He sat perched on a black pleather couch in the back office and nodded agreeably as Ethan the Manager rattled off particulars.
The Struggling Humorist left the strip mall with an early morning appointment. He picked up a hard baguette from the neighboring bakery. A thoughtful dinner contribution. At the first traffic light he tore off the crouton and chewed until his jaw ached.
Michael McGrath is a writer living in Connecticut. Visit him at www.mikeymcgrath.com.