At the Ratchet home we find ourselves once again eavesdropping on those best friends, Mikey Small and Alice Ratchet:

Mikey (she of the red hair): "Boy, are we ever lucky we got picked to take care of these guys."

"Yeah, I hope it takes a long time to fix their cages at school. It's neat how they figured out how to escape."

"So are we gonna use your bathtub until we can find some other place for them?"

"Yep. Come on. We can put some sand and grass and stuff in there. Cleaning up after them will be easy--we'll just rinse it all down the drain and put in new stuff."

"But--won't your parents mind?"

"My dad's the only one home right now and he won't even notice. He's been kind of out of it since he lost his job at the shop. Just lays around watching soap operas."

"Are you sure? Maybe he'll notice today."

"Well, let me check."

"Hey, Dad."

"Hey, Sweetheart."

"Anna took the car and caused a terrible accident, there are two cops at the door with four tickets and they want to know what you're going to do about it."

"Tell them we can't afford it this year, but we thank them for helping underprivileged children."

"And, by the way, Mom said she won't be home for the rest of the year. She took off for Hawaii with one of Henry's friends from the high school."

"Did she remember to take her check book?"

"Okay, we're good to go."


(Episode 16)

[For reference, the backstory on Bob Ratchet's job situation is contained in Chapter 22.]

Once upon a time, there was an unfortunate man who had lost his job two days before Christmas.

Now this man had a wife

and children and

a very big mortgage.

Soon all of his very small savings were gone and there was no money left to make the monthly house payment.

Every day the man read all the help wanted listings on Gregslist and the state employment internet site and in the newspaper. He applied for all the jobs for which he was qualified and

most of the ones for which he wasn't. But no one offered him a job.

Sometimes, when he was feeling very masochistic, he read the news.

You should have stuck to the funny papers, Bob.

Bob began to lose motivation. He spent his days watching soap operas and drinking beer and eating ding dongs. One day as he was lollygagging around....

"Da-ad! Someone's at the door for you!"

"Who is it?"

"It's a straw man!"

"What's he want?"

"He wants to see you!"

"Whatever. Tell him to come in."

"Mr. Ratchet?"

"That would be me. Who are you?"

"Mers is the name. M-E-R-S."

"Well, come in and sit down, Mr. Mers. You like The Months of Our Lives?"

"Ah, no, don't do soap operas, myself. Too much drama."

"What're you selling?"

"I'm not here to sell anything, Mr. Ratchet...Bob...can I call you Bob? I see you're not at work, Bob. Lose our job, did we?"

"Oh, I get it. You're from the Unemployment Office, checking up on me? Right? Right??"

"Not at all. I've actually come to discuss your mortgage loan with you."

"Oh-ho, you must be from the bank, then. I know I've been late on the last few payments, but you have to understand, I wasn't expecting to be laid off..."

"You've MISSED five payments, Bob. Tsk tsk."

"I'll get caught up soon. I've got 439 job applications out as of 5 p.m. yesterday."

"Interesting. And how many interviews have you had?"


"Just what I thought. Hopeless case. I'm afraid we'll have to start foreclosure proceedings."

"You came here to tell me that?"

"Consider it a courtesy call, to give you time to pack properly."

"But where am I gonna go? I have a family...hey! you're not from my bank. I never saw you'd there. I'd remember if I did."

"Tsk, tsk, Bob. I never said I was from your bank."

"Then who ARE you?"

"I'm the straw man."

"I noticed that right off. But I mean, who do you work for."

"I have many masters, Bob."

"You're very evasive."

"Let us put it this way, Bob. Your bank never really had your mortgage. I did. I control your mortgage and I therefore I control you."

"How can that be? I didn't take out a mortgage with you. I've never seen you before in my life."

"Oh, poor Bob. Did you not know that your mortgage was being traded as freely and carelessly as Monopoly money?"

"No, nobody told me. I didn't know they could do that! I thought I had a personal relationship with my banker."

"I hate to be the one to break the news, Bob, but your banker doesn't love you. In fact, he could hardly wait to get rid of your mortgage. That's where I come in. I'm the one who makes it all happen--no fuss, no muss. A little entry in the old ledger, and you have a new owner."

"Have a heart."

"I don't have a heart."

"I thought that was the tin man. I thought you didn't have a brain."

"Who needs brains when I have small type? Did you read all the small type, Bob?"

"I tried, but after awhile all the hereinafters and theresofores and yada yada yadas started running together before my eyes and I had no idea whatsoever was hereinbefore my eyes."

"So you don't recall section 372½(a)¶ 17(y-2x)(subset a,b....x). The one that says upon default your interest rate reverts to 3.1%?"

"Well, that doesn't seem so bad."

"Per diem?"

"I'd start packing, Bob. I'll be watching."


"You're awful jumpy, Bob. Is something the matter?"

"Where's the straw man?"

"What straw man?"

Am I back in Kansass?"

"Back in Kansass? This is Laska. Have you been watching that Wizard of Oz rerun again?"

"Oh, that's what it was. I must have fallen asleep and been dreaming."

"Da-ad. Someone's at the door for you."

"Who is it?"

"She's inquiring about the foreclosure. She heard our house was on the block."

Bob: "Wow, that was fast. That straw man works quick."

"Darling, there's some mistake. It was just a dream, like you said."

"Nice stairs. I really like your home. It seems sturdy enough. Has it ever been up in a tornado?"
This chapter is dedicated to all the Bob Ratchets of the world.

CREDITS: Credits today go to the Kansas Supreme Court, for putting the smackdown on the straw man, leaving him swinging in the wind in some cornfield. And isn't that fitting?