Poor Life Choices

by Tim Oliver

So I’m sitting in a pub, waiting for my dad. Normally this would be an issue because I’m underage, but as I know Carol who runs the George, and my dad spends most of his free time here, I am allowed to slip through the net. I am 17, so they don’t mind too much. Unfortunately I am trapped by Phil, the most spectacularly boring person in the world. He is currently telling me about how his prediction of a 2% interest rise on Mexican Mortgages caused him to make his seventh million, and what he spent the money on. He likes to start our conversations like this, to establish a firm basis of knowledge on the subject of careers, so he can tell me off about my own life choices. Usually I can get rid of him, but the constant tide of G&T’s flowing down his neck has made him inescapable.

“So,” he begins, his eyes widening with gleeful expectation “How are your A-levels going? Have you dropped your silly subjects?”

He calls everything but maths and economics a silly subject, claiming that anything that cannot be proved useful working in shipbroking or on a trading floor is useless. I privately find this ironic, as in the same breath he will normally extol the virtues of whatever pseudoscience his latest guru is peddling.

I explain that I have in fact, dropped maths, and taken up creative writing. He is positively ecstatic and swiftly orders a seventh G&T from Carol before turning to me. “But why?” he wheedles. “Sooner or later Timmy, you’re going to be 24. I had made my first million before then, and I never did creative writing! What use is creative writing? What firm is going to want that? How is this going to look on a resume?”

He stops gesturing expressively to grasp and down his drink. “Look Timmy, It’s not all about money. You need to find a job that makes you happy! But – and I know you won’t want to hear this, because it’s a big but that’s going to ruin your idealistic little world – money can make you happy! All you young hippies think that because you enjoy what you do the world will pay you for it, but that isn’t right. Trust me, I’m a millionaire.” He seems to think this is the end of it.

I suggest that perhaps art, drama or writing is more important than money. “Oh, of course. I’m not saying it ain’t important; because god knows that we need culture and stuff, it’s just that it won’t make you happy. I wanted to be in a band before I got a job, and bloody hell, where would that have taken me? Would I have been able to buy houses on the coast? No, my advice Timmy…” He stares me straight in the eyes, and straightens up a bit. I tense, ready for this final piece of much-hyped genius. “If you really want to be all gay and contribute to culture with writing, just hire someone!” he leans back, and looks upset when he realises I am unmoved by this apparently stupendous bombshell that has just been dropped. I ask for clarification.

“You know what I mean don’t you?” he’s shaking his head now, desperately trying to push his argument out in a way that I, someone who didn’t do maths and is therefore clearly underdeveloped,  can understand. “Look, you pay some other unemployed down-and-out to write for you. Your type of person is easy to hire. You have to move on mate. Money isn’t everything, and you can trust me there, I have a lot of the stuff, but it is bloody useful. So what do you say, eh? Drop the silly dream of being Pavarotti or some other bloody author, and come work with me on the floor? Mate, my life is great. You want to be me.”

I am saved at this point by my dad. As I excuse myself, and start towards him, I hear Phil close his argument. “Remember what I’m saying mate. Cash is the key to a good life.” In the pub’s light I can see that Phil is balding; sweat glistens on his flabby third chin. His ring finger shows the mark of a missing wedding band. He always comes here alone.

“Thanks for the advice, Phil.”

He grunts, and orders an eighth drink.

Tim Oliver writes short fiction, sometimes based on real life events. He studies at a college in Wiltshire.

  1. #1 by Glenys Grey on February 19, 2016 - 5:55 pm

    Excellent story, Tim. Beautifully written. Haven’t we all met someone like Phil?

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