Death Of An Insurance Premium
I was never an attractive man. Far from it in fact, and yet somehow I made that ugliness work for me at the insurance agency. Perhaps clients looked at my face, saw the failure and hopelessness etched into its crags and creases, not to mention the moles and boils and rashes and such, and thought, yes, I do need some kind of protection. After all, life’s a racket and you just need to stay ahead of the game. That’s what they teach us in the insurance business and then I just pass the fear on to you and eventually, over time, climb my way up to salesman of the month. And then salesman of the year, despite daily eruptions of facial pus from my many boils not to mention those few lawsuits I’m still facing. But it’s lonely at the top. All the candy in the five candy dishes that were so artfully arranged on laminate pressboard and sturdy metal-legged tables draped with festive tablecloths in the Holiday Inn convention centre room for Roy’s retirement party, that was all on my dime. Just a gift from the salesman of the year to show how generous I am even though no one knew it was me who bought and stocked the candy dishes, and though I do like to give anonymously I did have cause to mention it a couple of times to a few folks around the punchbowl and in the buffet line. Sometimes you have to toot your own horn and I don’t mean farting in a cold car somewhere on the outskirts of Minnesota with an inexplicable erection in 30-below weather.
“Say, did you get a chance to try some of the candy?” I asked, nonchalant as all hell. I got some nods…yes, yes, they did try some candy. Yes, they enjoyed it though, judging by their reactions, either they were just drunk or they weren’t that sold on the stuff. Of course the double martinis didn’t help, no doubt dulling their taste buds. Time to show these souses what really went into being top of the heap.
“Yeah, well, I put that together. I’ve always felt candy is the unsung icebreaker at parties. I mean, put out a nice dish of candy, or five dishes if you’ve got the money, which I do, and soon everyone’s talking and rubbing elbows and shoulders and fornicating in the cloak room and feeding each other canapés and exchanging phone numbers and shoe sizes and vacuum cleaner repairmen advice and baby-sitter recommendations, and tax bracket loopholes and, holy crap if you haven’t created a thriving little community. How great is that? And that’s what I’m all about. Community, fornication, tax loopholes and shitting in your enemy’s pants. I mean shoes.” People were always impressed with this little speech of mine and I would deliver it at the drop of a hat, even at a baptism, funeral or even once at a bris.
It was at one of those office parties that I met Guinevere. She was the wife of the company’s head chartered accountant, Del Plunkin, a mousey guy who had more cardigan sweaters than Siberia has musk-oxen or the frozen bodies of dissidents who had tried to escape the Gulag twenty years earlier, and I’ll be damned if this woman wasn’t all over me, backing me into a corner behind the grand piano and a potted palm tree and there behind the fronds she rubbed my penis through my trousers with one of those extra long shoe horns that rich people or those with arthritis seem to own. The next 86 hours were bewitching as we ditched diplomacy and roamed from motel room to motel room, engaging in every carnal activity known to civilization and I’m including all species in that declaration so, that my head wasn’t bitten off during the proceedings or I wasn’t left to guard some eggs for six or seven years, I can only thank my lucky stars.
It was at the Sea Horse Motel after an especially rousing round of lovemaking that left friction burns on my forehead, earlobes and ankles, no thanks to the vinyl headboard and a carpet-sample book that found its way under the sheets at the height of our frenzied coupling, that Guinevere turned to me as we lay on the Magic Fingers Massaging Bed, enjoying the last vibrations out of our last quarter we’d dropped into the slot only moments earlier and said, “You know, Leopold, if only my husband were out of the picture we could be together forever.”
“I’ve thought about that, baby and I like the sound of it.”
“Well, you’re an insurance guy so you know all about the triple indemnity clause whereby if you kill my husband but make it look like an accident or that he was chewed by feral dogs or a meteorite hit him, but only in Saskatchewan, then I get triple the amount of money on his insurance policy that I’m going to take out on him, with your help.”
“And what do I get out of the deal, honeybunch?”
“You get my everlasting love and the fact that I’m willing to overlook the pus eruptions from your many boils, even at intimate moments because pus really has no place in the bedroom I’ll remind you yet again, so that should count for a whole lot right in of itself. Oh, and I’ll throw in fifty grand for your troubles.”
“Hmmm. A measly fifty grand out of the, what…3.3 million you’ll be collecting on the triple indemnity policy. Forget about it, sister. I got other plans. Anyway, truth is, if we’re together after we off your husband why aren’t we sharing the money?”
“Oh, we would. Of course we would, Leopold. The fifty grand is just a little something extra for you, a little play-around money. Take a friend to Las Vegas or something. On me. All you need to do is one little thing.”
“Oh, why didn’t you say so? In that case, lay it out for me in terms I can understand. I’m a man who likes clear instructions and a nice roast chicken on a paper plate. Down-to-earth, greasy and disposable, that’s my motto.”
“Okay. I’ve figured it from every angle and this is the one that works. My husband and I are due to travel to Saskatchewan next month to visit his ailing mother. In fact she may be dying but either way I intend to hasten the process along because both my husband and I are named in her will and she’s sitting on a ton of money due to her investments in both the electric cattle-prod and paperclip industries. She lives in a small town called Moosamin, and as they’re an affluent family, the town grain elevator is named after them. So, every time we visit the mother insists on schlepping us out to this hideous thing where we stand and gaze up and marvel at the family name painted on old, moldy, rotting wood. You starting to see where this is going?”
“You want me to push them off the grain elevator?”
“No, you idiot. What did I just say about the triple indemnity clause? Remember, if Del gets hit by a meteor anywhere in Saskatchewan, the insurance company will honor the policy. I figure with his mother standing there we might as well kill two birds with one stone and quadruple our money.”
“Now you’re talking, honey. But seems to me just standing around hoping for a meteor to fall on them, well you could be there for days. Even months. Or years. I mean isn’t this whole meteor thing a bit of a long-shot? Can’t we just go back to the feral dogs?”
“Of course it’s a long-shot, you twit. You think we’re going to stand around a grain elevator waiting for a meteor to fall on them. We’ll die of old age before that happens. What I’m suggesting is this. You remember Siegfried Putchkin? He’s the guy who made those fake flaming meatball centerpieces for Clifton and Bernice’s wedding.”
“How could I forget? Right after that they promoted Clifton to head of the accounts payable division. This for a guy who can barely write his own name on a cheque. Those flaming meatballs really impressed someone.”
“Well, yeah, what did you think? Bernice is the daughter of Colby Hamstring, the president of the goddamn insurance company. Anyway, this guy, Putchkin, he’s really got a talent for constructing faux-meatballs. Kind of like his own little niche market. I had no idea of the size or scope of the fake meatball industry when I started this little project. So I called him up and asked him if he thought he could create a fake meteorite. Well, that had him thinking for a while until I explained to him that meteorites are not unlike meatballs. Spherical but with lumpy surfaces, happy and durable in extreme heat and deadly if traveling at a high velocity with absolutely no regard for human life. Meatball or meteorite, the description applies equally to both. After that he was all in. I’m awaiting delivery of the meatball any day now. He’s constructed it from papier-mâché and liver pâté. Light enough for us to carry but heavy enough, when dropped from the top of a grain elevator, to crush a person’s skull. Something to do with how Putchkin freezes the liver pâté first. I just need you to drop the damn thing on them while they’re gazing up at their flaking-painted name.”
“Better yet,” Leopold replied, “why not hedge our bets by throwing some feral dogs into the mix. I’m sure I could round up a bunch of half-starved psychotic mutts and let’em loose on Del and his mom in case the meteorite doesn’t kill them right off. Meteorite, feral dogs, c’mon, how can you miss? If the fake meteorite doesn’t crush their heads then the dogs will eat them. And the frozen liver pâté to boot. Which is like eating the evidence if you think about it. Either way we’ll be laughing all the way to the offshore bank in the Cayman Islands and the dogs’ll be chewing intestines till the cows come home.”
“I was thinking more the Antarctic.”
“The Antarctic, for an offshore bank to hide our money.”
“They got banks in the Antarctic?”
“Of course. No safer place to keep your money these days than in the Antarctic National Bank. Makes the Swiss look like wussies in the world of international finance. Your money is hidden deep beneath the ice and guarded by an army of penguins who will peck any intruder to death. Beats the shit out of those Alps and those stuffy Swiss twits with their moldy cheese breath any day.”
“Is that true?”
“The part about the penguins.”
“Of course. And they’re trained by the Israeli army in the art of Krav Maga.”
“Uh, yeah, whatever you say, doll-face. I dig the ice. And penguins. I dig penguins guarding our money and I dig the Israeli army even though I’m no so big on the desert climate , so really, the Antarctic sounds fine by me. I like things a little frosty. For me, for you and for our money. And maybe we can find time for some below-zero loving, if you catch my snowdrift.” Little was Leopold to know that these words would come back to haunt him, not in the frozen wasteland of the Antarctic but instead out back of an Olive Garden in Winnipeg in 13-below and a backlit figure on a snowmobile pointing a .303 hunting rifle at him and the last thing he could feel was the cool snow beneath him that he’d collapsed into and how it turned a bright red like a snow cone, reminding him of those hot summer days when the mosquitoes were plentiful and bounced off your forehead like bloodied raindrops, but with needle-shaped proboscis and spindly legs and a high, whining sound that he’d come to associate with youth and skin afflictions and lactose intolerance at the fair-grounds and getting whapped with a partially-frozen bible by his high school gym teacher after another sad display of rope-climbing, finishing with the teacher announcing to the class that if Leopold should ever be so fortunate as to procreate then all his children would look like potato chips. Time would prove the gym teacher right, amazingly enough, but that’s another story and depended on who you asked, since some claimed the kids looked more like those jumbo shrimp in shrimp cocktails due to their reddish hue and many tiny legs and the dark sand veins that ran up the back of their tiny heads and the way they liked to cling to glass surfaces and then just look googly-eyed at things, especially if they were tomato-sauce based.