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Art by W. Jack Savage 2019

A Life Examined - Found in a Recorder of the Deceased


By Doug Hawley



Well, that felt like the big one.  At least the first jolt.  Okay, I had been warned.  The docs said I should stop with the alky and pills, but I thought I knew better.  Isn’t modern medicine supposed to fix all of our mistakes?  Especially at 48?  I guess not.  I had never been introspective.  This may be my last shot at explaining myself to anyone who cares.  What could I have left, maybe an hour or so?

I suppose it would be fair to say that I wanted to get ahead the easy way.  In grade school I wanted to get attention and the easiest way was to be the class clown.  As long as I picked my spots right and stayed in bounds, the teachers even liked it.  I didn’t get good grades, but I won all the class offices. 

In high school the stakes were much higher.  The cool guys were bad boys.  I smoked plenty of grass and lied my ass off about using the harder stuff.  I partied hardy with all of the popular kids, but was discrete enough to not offend the parents.  Okay, I was in school to have a good time.  I had no plans and no thoughts.  The idea was to get loaded and get the best babes.  And I did just that.  One of my best moves was getting a job for an insurance agency getting leads for the agents to follow up.  I learned all that I needed in that job.  High school taught me jack.  People didn’t succeed by being smart; they succeeded by being great with people.  More cynically, you got ahead by being manipulative.  Can we say sociopath?  I think so.  Let the geeks in the back office understand the premium rate structure.  Salesmen know the latest joke, the best gossip, and what the trends are.  I got so I could say “Impact the bottom line at this point in time” without blowing chunks if that’s what it took to sell the biz droid.

Of course, I was too young to be an agent, and the pay sucked, but it was enough to get me a car, which is what you need in high school.  I may or may not be the daddy of a couple of bastards out there.  A girlfriend, Betty Boobs if I recall correctly, left town for a year ostensibly to visit with her aunt in Utah.  She never said anything to me, but then I don’t think that I projected a domestic image.  I appreciate her discretion.  I just can’t imagine daddyhood.  Did I mention that I might be a bit self-centered?  There was also a one-night stand with the girl from Century High School across town.  I just have a feeling that it took, I don’t know why, I never saw her again.  I know that Jane got an abortion.  It was easy, and I might not have even been the father.  She got around and her family was rich enough to take care of it.

Marsha is the one I never understood.  She just hung around.  Didn’t appeal to me at all.  I mostly told her to go away.  Women, I can’t understand them at all.  Why do they think that a good-looking guy like me is any better than some honest, ugly dude?  I never wanted to get in the sack with Sister Teresa.

The point is that high school was great for me.  I got C’s, didn’t study much and made out like a bandit.

I wanted to become an insurance agent immediately after I graduated, but they made me go to Carman Community College for a couple of years while I worked part time.  Fortunately, CCC was just high school revisited.  I could handle that.  Real college would have been way too much work.  As a beginner, I got the lower class leads.  I still did pretty well.  It’s amazing what you can achieve as long as you have limited regard for truth, beauty and the American way.  In the cosmic sense the sucker clients got what they deserved.  If they believed me and ignored all the clearly worded warning and fine print, it’s got to be their own fault.

Since I’d learned about condoms, at least I didn’t have any more kids.  You’re not likely to buy insurance from the guy your wife is pregnant by.


After a couple of years, I’m doing pretty good.  Got a suit for every day of the week, vacation in the Bahamas.  I found a company that pays 150% first year commission.  Hey, all I got to do is pay the first year premium for the “client” and make an easy 50%.  Doesn’t make any difference what happens after the first year.  Sure, after a few years Idiot Life (actually Ideal Life, but I like my name better), figured it out so I had to move on, but by that time I had “sold” $5,000,000 in premium and cleared $2,500,000.  Idiot Life could have tried to get some of their money back, but then they would have looked like, what can I say, idiots.  A scandal like that would have cost the honchos their jobs, which were more important to them than their company’s losses.

When I changed insurance companies, I got the high rollers based on my previous “success” (my new employer only cared about how much premium I sold, not that the business was crappy).  This required that I go to the best restaurants, drink a lot and stay up all night.  Rich people are funny that way.  In order to keep up, I started taking uppers and downers.  It seemed smarter than crack or injected drugs and it worked for Elvis, at least for awhile.  My ability to party all night, catch a little sleep and be sharp the next day was widely admired.  I’m the company’s best agent on the coast.  Of course, I had to make some sacrifices.  Never got married, never had a family, never read the great works of Western Civilization.  The women I go out with are great-looking and as shallow as I can find.  They are just out looking for a good time, maybe a few thrills.

I’ve never done a thing to help man or mankind.  I’ve only looked out for myself.  God, I wouldn’t change a thing.

“A Life Examined” originally appeared in Fiction on the Web, on May 15, 2015.

Doug Hawley is a former mathematician turned actuary (mathemortician) who writes, snowshoes, volunteers and hikes. He was a volunteer wheelchair jockey (pusher, role model, unpaid escort) at a hospital, greeter at the Marine Mammal Center, “normal” in a balance study at OHSU, and docent at China Camp in California, and now is a volunteer bookseller in support of his local library, and a killer of invasive species at his local park. He lives with editor and musician Sharon. He currently resides in Lake Oswego, OR and has lived in Manhattan (KS that is), Atlanta, Louisville, Denver, LA, and marvy Marin CA

W. Jack Savage is a retired broadcaster and educator. He is the author of eight books including Imagination: The Art of W. Jack Savage (wjacksavage.com).  To date, more than fifty of Jack’s short stories and over a thousand of his paintings and drawings have been published worldwide. Jack and his wife Kathy live in Monrovia, California.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2019