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
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
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
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
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
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.