All Stories, Fantasy

Half by Doug Hawley

One day in March, I felt an excruciating abdominal pain, so painful that I fell to the floor.  Because my wife Sally was out shopping and I was immobilized, there was nothing I could do.  Within five minutes, the pain left, and I felt as if nothing had happened.  I decided not to tell Sally, because I knew that she would freak and want me to see a doctor immediately.  I thought it best to see how things played out, and see my doctor at the earlier of my next incident, or within a month.

Ten days later, I had severe pain in both of my middle toes.  Again, the attack lasted a few minutes and then disappeared without a trace.  Totally flummoxed, I got an appointment for three days later.

At my appointment, I told the doctor my symptoms and he took some blood tests.  I got another appointment for the next week.  He told me that he had no idea what my problem was, so I was nervous leading up to the next appointment.

At the following appointment he told me “I have very bad news, bad news and better news.”  I had never liked Dr. Unman, because he was always so grim.

I wanted to hear the worst, so I told him “Tell me the very bad new first.”

“You’ll die in six months from your first symptoms.”

After a long pause in order to digest the indigestible, I asked “You must mean about six months.  It could be more or less.”

“No, exactly six months from your first symptom.  You could marry an actuary and move to South Dakota.  You wouldn’t live longer, but it would seem like it.”

The thought crossed my mind that I might as well kill Dr. Unman, since they wouldn’t get around to executing me before I died.

“Let’s say for the moment that I’m buying what you are telling me, what is the bad news and the not so bad news.”

“In order, there is nothing you can do to live longer than six months and there is nothing you can do to make you die earlier, outside of you or someone else deliberately trying to harm you.”

I didn’t believe the crazy story he was telling me, but I decided to play along.  “How did you come by this diagnosis?”

“The history of your disease goes back to before the time of Christ.  The exact symptoms are documented in the apocryphal book of Ezra.  In fact, it is called Ezra’s condition.  Documented cases only occur about once every hundred years.  That explains why you haven’t heard of it.  If anyone came up with a cure, there would be no money in it because there are so few cases.  I hope that you don’t think that medical researchers are in it to save lives.”

“I should have done this years ago.  I’m getting another doctor and a second opinion.”

“Knock yourself out.  Don’t let the door smack you on the ass on the way out.”

Without going into all of the details, the second doctor agreed with the first

bizarre opinion, but without being the total asshole that Unman was.

After I explained it to Sally, she said “I don’t know what to think.  Do you believe it Duke?”

“I don’t know what to think either, but I’d like to hedge my bets.  I’ve been so conservative all my life, maybe I’d like to live as if I only had a little less than six months to live.  Even if I’m wrong, it could be liberating.”

“What does that mean?  Do you want a hot car?  Do you want a hall pass?  How about travel?”

“I hadn’t given it any thought until just now, but maybe on hot car, no on hall pass and I’ll think about travel.  I’m not going to change one of the few things that I’ve done right in my life and cheat.  I’ll look at my car choices.  No travel if it’s a pain in the ass.  Whatever I do, I don’t want to leave you broke if I do die in less than six months.”

“OK, let’s set a six month budget for you.  I think that we are fairly good on retirement funds and if you are gone, I can save on car expenses and your food, razors and q-tips, but our total social security goes down.  Maybe there are some other savings that I haven’t thought of.  I don’t see any problem with setting aside a quarter of a million to fund your fun.”

“Sounds generous to me, and if I don’t die, we won’t have broken the bank.  Anyway, I think that I can hold it to $100,000.”

For the first couple of weeks, I tried all of the unhealthy things I could think of and quit all of my hiking, exercising and volunteer work.  I found out that I didn’t even like expensive cigars; I could only drink so much high priced cognac and cokes, and eat so many pizzas and burgers.  Further, if there was a chance that I wouldn’t die after six months, I didn’t want to be completely unhealthy, so I mostly returned to my old routine.  Maybe a little more alcohol and pizza.  I decided not to tell anyone, partly because I might be crying wolf, and partly because I’d already exceeded my life time quota of whining.

So what could I spend money on that would make me happy?  We are still thinking about travel.  The house that we are in suits me except for one thing.  I’ve always wanted a purple and orange color scheme.  I think it goes back to the earliest car that my parents had that I remember, an old purple 1939 Chevrolet with some orange patch up.  Sally agreed to let me paint the inside of the garage.  I made it purple with orange racing stripes.  Sally didn’t like it, but she knew that it could always be repainted if we needed to sell the house.  How about putting something special into the garage?  Even with death staring at me, I couldn’t totally escape the practicality bred into me.  Rather than a Tesla, Corvette or BMW, I decided to get a Miata or Mini convertible.  We ended up with a 2012 Mini convertible.  With our Ford Fiesta trade in, we only paid $5678, so I didn’t have much of a start on spending the $100,000; much less the quarter million, but I liked the new car and the new paint.

Money can’t buy happiness, but I do like our new 100inch top of the line TV.

My bucket list always included Italy and the Mediterranean, but we hate the hassle of traveling.  To make it as easy as possible, we booked an all inclusive charter tour / cruise.  All together, it cost $21,309, but only half of that counted against my death fund, since both of us went.

Of course there was great food, the Coliseum, the Parthenon and the many art museums, but half way through the tour, I yearned for my own bed and shower.  I didn’t even think any more about the Far East tour we had talked about.

I thought about a last visit with any of my old friends.  All of them were dead or disinterested.  I called up my old girlfriend up north and she told me she was tied up with her dying husband.  The first serious girlfriend told me to go to hell.  That hadn’t ended too well.

Except for the new car, our lives went on much as before.  I guess that it was good to know that I had already been living the life that I really wanted.

As we got close to the six month mark, Sally suggested that I write my obituary.  If I didn’t die, I could just update as necessary.  Here it is:

My family life was closer to the Nelson family than the Manson family.  My parents and sister were more or less ordinary.  I had my heart broken a couple of times before meeting my soul mate.  Regrets I’ve had a few– never had a job that I liked, didn’t get along with in-laws and I’m under 6 feet tall – way under.  My work life was as boring as possible and I retired as soon as feasible.  I enjoy volunteering more than any jobs that I had.  Up until now, I’ve had fairly good health and adequate money.

After I wrote my obituary, I decided that I wanted a legacy that would last at least a little while.  Sally agreed to get me a memorial bench somewhere, but I still wouldn’t be anywhere close to using up my budget.  I asked her to give some of our money to my relatives at my death because their provision in our will was fairly small.

But wait there’s more.  Maybe we could get this story published somewhere.  I found a list of possible publications.  Sally agreed to find a publisher if I didn’t make it past the six month mark and I would do it if I did.

My six months are up tomorrow.

Doug Hawley

Image – Google images

14 thoughts on “Half by Doug Hawley”

  1. Hi Doug,
    I really did like this!
    It made me smile.
    The story catches your interest straight away.
    The line about ‘Giving him a hall pass’ was touching as it makes us all think on a freebie.
    The death fund being calculated as only a minus of 50% due to his wife being on the trip was a bit mean or maybe not.
    I thought the obituary was very good.
    And the open / shut ending was clever.
    You have sent us nine wonderful stories before but I think the one that takes you into double figures is your best!!
    Congratulations on reaching that elusive band of ‘The under three percenters!!’
    All the very best my friend.


  2. Well,Doug, this made me realise that having a defined end-of-life date does concentrate the mind and forces a revaluation of a life worth living.
    The idea of killing Dr Unman applied to me, thankfully our character didn’t since he would spend his last days in prison, a no no. I found the idea that Dr Unman being aware of a an ancient disease made me chuckle – I know doctors that struggle to identify ringworm!
    The unselfish tone was endearing, there was no chest beating or tears, and the reluctance to change a happy routine.
    Six months up tomorrow– a sudden death then.
    I truly look forward to your next tale from beyond the crypt.


    1. Technical note – I need to start following LS on Twitter again. As a joke, I changed my birthdate to my 78th birthday making me 0 years old on that date. Twit doesn’t allow anyone under thirteen so I was locked out. After many attempts to get unlocked, I started a new account DougHawley8 (I think) with no old followers or followees. As a result, I forgot that this was coming up.

      Unman based on a former doctor, no longer practicing I hope.

      Thanks for the kind words. If I come up with something that I think is LS worthy I’ll pass it along. Unpaid ad

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent story. Quirky, strong narrative voice and an effectI’ve meta ending. Love the line “it was good to know that I had already been living the life that I really wanted.“ Everyone should be as fortunate.


  4. One good thing about the disease was he didn’t have any debilitating symptoms..
    pain free and able to travel. Funny story because of the protagonist’s attention to economics and eating…I wonder why he enjoyed volunteer work, and what it was… I liked his matter of fact, emotionally detatched obituary.


    1. Harrison (if I may be informal). Much of this is autobiographical. I never had a job that I liked (ended up being self-employed actuary, quit at 55), but have enjoyed being a hospital escort, park docent and park steward. If I wrote the story now, the narrator would be getting an electric car – we now have a hybrid Volt, all electric would be the next step.
      I hope to die either from an instant heart attack or stroke, or improbably like the narrator.


  5. This is fantastic! A humorous and unique story. Have read similar storylines where time’s up for the protagonist and the remaining days are treated as newfound treasure. But there’s a huge difference in this one. It’s more of a down-to-earth and humble approach where the protagonist seems a bit weary of his last choices and adventures.
    And the doctor’s visit and diagnosis is hilarious. Couldn’t have put this down better. Hope it’s not the end. Guess tomorrow will tell.
    Wonderful! 🙂


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