Tapes, a short story written by Doug Hawley at Spillwords.com



written by: Doug Hawley



Tape from October 1, 2014

Just fell over the threshold.  Retch.  Now I vomited.  Should I / could I stay here forever?  What means forever?  To be or not to be?

Hours later

I keep wondering how dumb and useless I can be and keep finding that I can be even dumber and more useless.  After buying Mary a few drinks after work at Ernie’s and me a lot more drinks, I could not only not belch put any moves on her, I couldn’t stand up straight or speak coherently.  Fortunately or not, my car knew the way home.

The best I can hope for is to sober up for work tomorrow.

Tape from October 2, 2014

Decided to have lunch by myself and speak at dictating device.  Oh boy, the dog and burger deal.  I can’t stand to smoke, but I may be able to kill myself with food and drink.  But hokey schmidts, my vices cancel each other.  I eat so much I ralph up the food when I get drunk.  Should I be fat but sober or a skinny drunk?  What do I want to fail – heart or liver?  Decisions, decisions.


New topic – Work.  That which groan keeps me in cheap suits and expensive liquor.  Have to admit that it is better to be middle class depressed than poverty depressed.  I think.  But, oh my God is this job depressing.  On the other hand my basic sloth keeps me from doing anything else.

I’m bright enough that I don’t get fired.  I’m caustic enough that I don’t advance.  Stuck in the middle.  Groan.  Cohorts mostly think that I’m cynical – hip.

Oh, yeah, OK – What do I do?  I’m the actuary for a middle size insurance company in a middle sized town.  Got a few people on staff.  My “publics” as the current jargon would have it are Management (Bastards), Marketing (Crooks), Regulators (Idiots) and Policyholders (Whiny Suckers).

OK management.  Are they crooks or incompetents?  My bet would be both.  I report to the Chief Financial Officer.  I think that he used to work at a piano factory.  He knows nothing about insurance.  At one time he decided to compare our insurance inforce (he thought they represented our liabilities) against assets.  He called me in to explain it all to him.  He was very relieved and actually liked me for a couple of weeks.  Until I reported due and deferred premiums.  He asks me to explain them to him every couple of months.  I don’t know if he forgets my explanation, or is trying to catch me changing my story.  It doesn’t help that due and deferred premiums make no sense – we are required to report them.  They are what pass for an asset in life insurance, what can I say?  Apparently, there is not much that I can say to financial types.


Then the dirty word asks why profits aren’t the same every month.  I’m sure he would accept increasing profits.  Well, Mr. CFO Buchanan Sir Fat Dummy, it is because different amounts of people die, or pay premiums in each month.  Because our investments change each month.  Because the agency guys waste different amounts of money each month.

Marketing guys.  What can I say that hasn’t already been said?  Well, shit, it’s my tape recorder I can say whatever I want.  Heh – heh.  They view insurance as an unfortunate outgrowth of sales contests.  They want benefits to be 100% of the premium and commissions to be 50% of the premium.  Other expenses – actuarial work, claims, whatever – they don’t care about.  When in doubt raise commissions.  When not in doubt pay higher commissions.

George in sales asked why we don’t guarantee that premiums be returned at death.  When I told him that it would raise premiums and be a silly benefit, he said that worthless benefits were OK as long as they could be sold and that higher premiums meant higher commissions.  He says “Win -win”, I think dumb – dumb.  But sales are king, the drivers, the creators, the big king, our reason for living, the crown of capitalism.  So I’m working on return of premium.

Sales creativity – Give away a SUV for the sales leader rather than the traditional Buick – go to Branson for the sales convention instead of Chicago.  I kid you not.

Who’s up to bat next?  Oh, yeah regulators.  OK.  First the good news.  Not all of them are dim bulbs who want you to buy them lunch.  It’s only the ones I know.  I might be kidding.  If anyone cared – and apparently no one does – I could mention here to my legions of hearers – so far just no one – that their regulation is complex beyond comprehension and has very little to do with its stated goals and is very wasteful, and … and.  Well.  Enough said.

Pause for 30 seconds

What flavors do regulators come in?  Earnest – industry suckups – consumer suckups – petty dictators who are jealous of people with real jobs that make real money.  Some are looking to earn a pension without making waves.  Some live to make waves.  I remember Henry Gomez of Texas who had a perfect record of never approving a policy form the first time through.  It got so we would submit policies with obvious errors so we could turn around and submit the “corrected policy” after he speedily caught the decoy submission.  Saved a lot of time.

Get serious for a moment.  Regulators spend 50% of their time on crap that is counterproductive.  50% of their time spent is innocuous, leaving, according to my complex calculations, 0% to do anything useful.

Policyholders.  Largely poor suckers.  Much of their “information” is deliberate deception by agents trying to make a sale.  Most of the rest of what they “know” comes from agent’s innocent ignorance.  Trick loans – return of premium – bonuses – all stuff that is either worthless or is compensated for by take aways somewhere else.  And the insurance companies will fight to somebody’s death – probably not their own – for the right to keep policyholders covered in manure.  But they can’t do it on their own.  The aforementioned regulators will continue to strive for the opaque over the light.

Time to go back to my profession.  Got to figure premiums to cover return of premiums.  I owe it to my publics.

Oct 2, 2014 evening

Work is through, it’s time for a brew.  Miller time.  It doesn’t get any better than this.  (Frog Voice) Bud Weis Er.  Hold it, beer is too slow.  Cheap vodka and ice is the ticket.

Oct. 3, 2014 evening

Got to Mary’s place after much drinking at Ernie’s.  For once she seemed more drunk than I was.  She complained about her life and her job.  Doesn’t she know that complaining is my job?

Her parents think she is a failure because she is over 25 (how much over?) and neither married nor rich.  Her boss would look up her skirt or down her dress if he could.  Men are jerks.  Why don’t the jerks go out with her more than once?  I guess that makes me a bigger jerk or not a jerk, I don’t know which.  Anyway she feels like crap.

We had another drink at her place.  Then she started to undress.  Mumbled about how I would finally get lucky.  I felt sick.  All of a sudden she disgusted me.  After weeks of trying to get her to bed now what?  I always disgust me.  My response to her after seconds of consideration – “What do you mean I’m getting lucky?  Are you stupid?”  After all the chasing, I deciding she wasn’t that appealing.  She certainly looks better with her clothes on and sober.  My drunkenness didn’t make her more attractive, I guess.  Or did I wonder if I could perform when the occasion arose?  Or didn’t arose.  Ha ha.

Enough analysis for one evening.  Some aspirin and off to bed.  Lucky or unlucky?

October 4, 2014 noon

Well I’m getting funny looks, my ears are burning and people are laughing in my general vicinity.  Is there any chance that Mary didn’t kiss, but she did tell?  Could be.  I shouldn’t care but I do.  Besides being the butt of crude humor, I probably hurt her little feelings.  Shouldn’t I come across after coming on to her?  Am I oversensitive about my own feelings, but don’t care about anyone else?  Maybe, yes and yes.  On the other hand, maybe no one exists but me and it would be a fantasy to be concerned with anyone else.  Oh, shit, dreaded collegiate philosophical puckey.

Damn, the cafeteria burgers are bad.  Too bad the closest MacDonald’s is 10 blocks away.

October 4, 2014 evening

Can’t go to Ernie’s given the association with the Mary stuff.  I’ll have to drink at home.

October 5, 2014 morning

Dawning realization – The more cups of coffee I have in the morning, the more depressed I am by the afternoon.  I’ll have to cut back.

October 6, 2014 evening

Hayzus, is keeping a recorded log boring.  Looking for a new bar could be fun, challenging and educational.  I’ll try that.

October 7, 2014 morning

I never expected to get thrown out of a gay bar.  What did I say, what did I do?  Can’t really remember.  Why did I go to a gay bar?  Did I go to a gay bar?  Too much analysis.  I had enough to drink, and that is what counts.

October 8, 2014 noon

TGIF – Why, that means I’ll start to drink in the morning.  Nothing heavy.  What’s so great about bloody Mary’s?  The tomato juice and celery are supposed to make you healthy?  Loud laughter.

October 13, 2014 evening

Big surprise, I’ve been too depressed to keep up my recorded stream of unconsciousness.  OK, recap the last few days.  Spent the weekend in my apartment drinking and eating.  I vomited enough so I shouldn’t gain weight.  I don’t have to worry about high protein or high carbo diet, just stick with violent, projectile vomiting.

Oh yeah, work.  Been having a cold war with the pierced clerk.  He name is Jean, but I can’t think of anything but pierced clerk.  Her expertise is doing as little as possible to avoid being fired, even though she doesn’t seem to care about being fired or anything.  Even though she would make a good role model for me, she just pisses me off.  Today she got the reinsurance report to me 15 minutes before her deadline.  I know she could have finished yesterday, but it is part of the game that she plays.

It gets worse.  I find her artificial primitivity a turn on.  Despite my trying to cover up my interest, they always know and they always use it.  She keeps inviting me to punk clubs after work.  I think she’s looking for some sort of big sexual harassment lawsuit and maybe big humiliation for me.  I’m not sure what she’s up to.

October 15, 2014 sometime

Stopped drinking for a couple of days.  My head hurts like hell, my stomach is way upset.  Could be caused by the massive consumption of painkillers for the withdrawal symptoms.  I can’t remember from my underwriting whether past drinking and a variety of painkillers will kill me.  We could consider this a medical experiment.  Sobriety – the new frontier.

Asked out the waitress from the restaurant where I buy my overpriced hamburgers and occasional steaks.  She surprised me by saying yes.  She has a good chest, could be younger than me, can speak English (maybe even other languages, I would not know), and has good teeth.  What is wrong with her that she would go out with me?  I’ll find out tomorrow.

October 16, 2014 evening

I was on my best behavior with Emily.  Took her to a place I hadn’t been before for dinner – Thai Won On.  I could indulge my childlike love of peanuts while seeming sophisticated in my tastes.  Limited myself to one white wine.  Was properly attentive.  Didn’t vomit on anyone or swear a lot or offer my opinion on religion or politics.  I think she likes me based on her willingness to indulge in limited wrestling on her sofa.  We agree to try again next week.

October 23, 2014 morning

Have not spoken into this gadget for awhile.  Same old same old.  Worked on return of premium policy series.  Series that is.  Not one idiot policy but a series.  Series.  If as much time was spent on efficient distribution as  …. oh, what’s the use.  Anyway, I’ll have the return of premium series completed soon.  There will be life, health and annuity policies in the Return of Premium Series.

Pierced clerk is now commenting on my clothes.  I can’t tell if her compliments are sarcastic or not.  I can only respond that she is certainly looking today.  She also tries to tell me how her female troubles affect her.  I cut her off as quickly as possible.  There are some things that non-medical man was not meant to know.

oh boy, date tonight.

October 23, 2014 much later

Since we were getting to know each other better, Emily let me know her philosophy of life – unconditional love and philanthropy.  If only the Catholics and bigots and rich people weren’t so hateful what a wonderful world it would be.  Later I let her win the wrestling match.

I wonder if she knows what “Forget You” means?

I’d better take a lot of aspirin with this fifth of bourbon.  I don’t want to wake up


with a hangover.

October 25, 2014 Police Report

We were called to check the residence of Mr. XXXXXX by his employer who could not raise him on the phone when he did not show up for work.

We found Mr. XXXXXX unconscious with shallow breathing.  Based on the mostly empty liquor bottle and bottle of aspirin, we are assuming that he is a victim of attempted suicide or accidental overdose.

I called the paramedics.  After they arrived I exited the premises.

October 26, 2014 medical report

Mr. XXXXXX lab reports show .25 blood alcohol and high aspirin content in his stomach.  We evacuated his stomach based on likeliness of poisoning.  Mr. XXXXXX is holding on.  I recommend that he be held while evaluated.

October 28, 2014 psychiatric report

Mr. XXXXXX shows no sign of suicidal tendencies or depression.  He apparently drank too much and didn’t realize how many aspirin that he had taken.

He has had no attempts at suicide on record.  He seemed quite cheerful and pleased to be in such good shape after drinking a little too heavily.  He is a heavy drinker, but has no record of trouble with work or driving based on his drinking.  He has no criminal record or any treatment for mental illness.

I can find no reason not to release him.

October 29, 2014 lunch

I really screwed up that time.  I won’t make that mistake again.  At least I was capable of scamming the shrink.  If this ever happens again, they really will mess with my head, and I wouldn’t want anyone messing with that fine functioning machine.

Everyone at work is walking around on eggshells except for pierced clerk.  At least she is telling it like is.  “Couldn’t pull the trigger Mr. XXXXXX?”

October 31, 2014 preliminary coroner’s report

Mr. XXXXXX died of suicide at approximately 10:00 PM from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by running his car in a closed garage.

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