“You’re serious about this, then? You really want to go through with it?” Carl had only been with HR in the workman’s comp division for three weeks, otherwise he probably would have laughed the petite elderly woman with pink-rimmed cat-eye glasses all the way out the door, as every other representative had for the past seven years. As fate would have it, however, Carl was just new enough to take Betty Vansco at face value and with a polite smile listened patiently as she explained her claim.
“Now listen sonny, I’m going to explain this to you because you look like a nice young man and I do believe you will try to help out an old bat like me… not like these other idgits who work here,” Betty began, adding the last remark under her breath but just loud enough for one such ‘idgit’ to hear as she passed by. “For eighteen-odd years I’ve busted my hump around here, working for four different executives and seeing more than a few dozen other clerks come and go in that time. I’m not one to complain, you see, but as I see it, if something is wrong, well then…it should be fixed, don’t ya think?” Betty pierced Carl with an icy stare over her pink glasses until Carl played along and nodded slowly in agreement.
“I always wondered why Martha wore those God-awful opera gloves to work in the 70s, she was the smart one, come to find…” Betty seemed to have skipped a few pages in her own narrative, and Carl wrestled with the idea of interrupting her. “Wha-“ was about as far as he got before Betty shot him another steely look that clearly implied it would be best if he kept quiet.
“Serving as a filing clerk is no walk in the roses, I’ll have you know. It wears a body down, down to the bones. Bone weary, that’s what I am, among other things…” Betty said, her voice growing distant. It was at this point that Carl began to notice several of his coworkers watching with barely-contained amusement his interaction with Betty. He was beginning to understand why.
“That’s why I have to file this claim, it’s only right for the pain and injuries I suffered from over the years. Suffered in silence for years, I might add…” Betty pouted and crossed her bony arms. Carl doubted very much that this sinewy woman did anything silently; even the simple act of crossing her arms caused a tinkling sound as the over-sized gold rings on each finger slid down to the knuckle and rapped against each other like distant bells that needed a bit of tuning.
“I understand, Mrs. Vansco,” Carl said, attempting to pacify her a little.
“Oh! My dear boy, it’s Ms. Vansco. Mr. Vansco has been in the ground these ten years, rest his wretched soul,” Betty purred, leaning her elbows on the counter and coyly batting her sparse eyelashes at Carl. Ignoring the escaped chuckle, from one of his co-workers lurking somewhere behind him, no doubt a reaction to Betty’s feeble attempt to flirt, Carl pulled at his collar and continued.
“My apologies, Ms. Vansco,” he said over more snickers. It seemed the entire office was having a spot of fun at the new guy’s expense. Well, I know how to have fun too, he thought smugly. “Let me just take a second look at your claim,” he said, feigning a thoughtful tone. “Umm, umm hmm… ok, I see here you are claiming damages for chronic paper-cuts to all but two of your fingers, is that correct?” Carl looked up, maintaining his nothing-but-business-here demeanor.
Startled that someone might actually be considering her claim, Betty blinked rapidly for a few seconds before replying quietly, “Why yes, that’s correct. You can see the results for yourself,” and she turned her hands towards Carl. Carl took a long look at each finger but the two pinkies (as they were not part of the claim) and nodded solemnly after inspecting both hands. In truth, Betty’s fingers were covered in cuts and scars, that is, wherever a soggy Band-Aid didn’t prevent closer scrutiny.
“Well, it looks like everything is in order then, Ms. Vansco. I’ll go ahead and file this right away and you should be hearing from our office in the next 10 business days,” Carl said smartly as he tapped a stack of papers on the counter, sorting them. He could feel the disbelief and shock oozing from his coworkers, which made him relish the moment even more. And if that wasn’t enough, the look of gratitude on Betty’s face, that someone after all these years had listened to her and filed her bogus claim, would be reason enough for Carl to do it all over again.
Eight years later…
Carl sat down at his small second-hand kitchen table and began to sort through the usual junk mail. Coming to the last letter, Carl turned it over slowly, and was surprised to see his name and address in handwritten script, an unfamiliar law firm was listed as the return address. “Great, now what…” Carl muttered and began to rip open the seal. “Dang it!” he shouted suddenly, dropping the letter and clenching his left ring finger, wear a small bead of blood was growing larger by the second. “Just what I need, a paper cut!” he said and grabbed a paper towel to wrap around the wounded digit. Returning to the half-opened missive, Carl carefully ripped open the rest of the envelope and read the short letter on what looked like expensive letterhead. Eyes widening suddenly, he looked back into the envelope and slowly removed a check. Rereading the last words of a woman he barely remembered, Carl realized his life would now be forever changed.
“…and so, since I’m obviously worm food by now, Carl I’d like for you to have everything. The lawyers can sort it out, but I’m leaving my fortune to you, because without you I would have never had it in the first place. Your willingness to humor an old lady those years ago actually bore fruit. I won the workers comp settlement and used that little bit of money to invest, and now… you’re a millionaire. Have a little bit more fun, it’s on me this time.”
~Ms. Betty Vansco.
The Not So Fantastic Reality:
The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:
ONE: This one’s pretty easy to explain, I got a killer paper cut today while doing some filing at work. The kind that’s right on the tip of your finger so it gets caught on everything and pulses with new hurt every time you go to type or pick something up. Even with a Band-Aid barrier the sucker is killing me (and making typing quite the chore). Oh well, it’s part of the job I suppose… just not a part I like particularly.
Love & Squirrels.