A Life Examined - Found in a Recorder of the Deceased by Doug Hawley

An unrepentant drug addicted party animal reflects on his petty life; by Doug Hawley.

Well that felt like the big one. At least the first jolt. OK, I had been warned. The docs said I should stop with the alky and pills, but I thought that 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 hearty 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 a while. 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.

Death rattle


  1. A sense of fragility and the devil, life doesn't line up? This challenges our selfish impulses, de-romanticises them and demands that we face consequences. A timely story,

  2. Where's the twist? This sounded like diary of an asshole. I was hoping for some kind of ending that wasn't just "hey I haven't changed and I'm a dick head." What's the point of a story if there's no character development?

  3. It is the diary of an asshole who sees no point in changing. That is exactly the point.

  4. Meta-criticism - I strongly feel character development is both unnecessary and unrealistic. Would the Hannibal series have been better if he became vegan? Would "The Killer Inside Me" by Jim Thompson been better if the narrator took everyone out for cake and coffee at the end rather than blowing them all up.

    Some writing teachers (I took an online course from one and was the only one who thought it was a load), some writers and some genres require formulae with little relevance to real life. Most characters don't develop, they just have minor changes through life, and most real stories don't have twists at the end.

    Rant over.

    Charlie, if you read these comments, want to start a debate or forum? I'd like to know what others think.

    1. I do read these comments!

      My favourite film of last year was "The Wolf of Wall Street". I've seen dozens of films about an amoral crook who got his comeuppance in the end - but in this case the glamorised criminal suffers no negative consequences, and is even hugely rewarded for his crimes. Why did Martin Scorsese make such a film?

      Because it reflects our times. When we watched Oliver Stone's Wall Street in 1987, or Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas in 1990, we were shocked by how the world really works, shaken out of our naivety. But now, in the 2010s, we know how the world works - and even though we claim to be good people, we know that we are complicit in the evil and dysfunction that forms the foundation of our society. Bankers steal our money because we let them. Footballers get paid millions to set terrible examples because we let them. Chickens are battery farmed because we let it happen. We know the only way our shoes could be this cheap is because somewhere in the world someone has been horribly exploited BUT WE BUY THEM ANYWAY.

      That's what was in my mind when I decided to publish this. We can't keep demanding our stories to have morals, our endings to be happy, when we are guilty of turning a blind eye to the rot.

  5. I don't think there are absolute rules in writing. It's fine for the character not to change in a very short piece like this. He's unapologetic, honest in a way. You could admire that, or not. It's a matter for long debate. But whatever anyone thinks, I enjoyed this piece of writing!


  6. Doug, I enjoyed this story very much: and you’re right, not every character needs to be “developed.” I had to laugh at the way you told your highly self-regarded critics to shove it when they criticized you. You wrote, basically, the tale of an asshole, and assholes deserve their print, just like anyone else. I’ve written about assholes (figuratively speaking) a lot (see: Ronnie B’s). Nice job!

    1. Thanks for this and all the support. You are now up there in my supporter (athletic?) hall of fame with Maysam and the LS gang.