Humans have a sense of fairness, as do some birds, but not chimps, it seems. The studies establish that we all would rather scuttle a deal which would score us rewards if another player were to reap more in the bargain. I see my fifty dollar winnings and throw it away if you will gain a hundred.

The Greeks established a culture behind schadenfreude, the natural satisfaction of the many over the pricking of the balloon of pride when a meglomaniac attempts to transcend tribal boundaries.

We read Victorian novels for a sense of fair play, because we celebrate the tribe instead of the lone hero. This is the progressive movement in its glory.

And I remember a story about the spousal battery of Didion-Dunne rejecting a screenwriting deal because the offer came in five thousand beneath their own estimate of their self worth. (A friend declared, I wouldn’t scuttle a deal over five thousand. It’s indeed a meagre sum in that league.)

This should stamp paid to the selfish Republican solitary hero myth. We don’t need no steenkin’ Ayn Rand acolyte as economic pope. Just look what it brought us. It’s good to contemplate this lesson as we sweep up the shards left by the failed exponents of suprahuman greed as they scuttle like rats out the back door this very day.

Let’s play Oddball.

This story was told me by one of the participants, an agent with the Army Finance Center that was. It’s true according to my own best memory and narrative abilities.

Meet Colonel Clum (ret). A full bird, he retired some time back after many years of faithful service and traded in his boots for white boaters and moved to an upscale well-appointed townhouse behind gates on a golf course. But he also traded in his faithful spouse, who had raised his children and flitted about for over thirty years with him to all posts and in all weathers. She was a bit worn, like the boots, and Colonel Clum needed something a bit more stylish for his new setting. He had given his heart to Gwendolyn in high school, but he really had none to give.

Exit Gwendolyn. Enter Trixie, who was so pleased she would be able to sit at the Officers Club instead of serve drinks there.

Time marches ever onward, and Trixie approached the age of Gwendolyn when she was recycled, so she became a mite unsettled. Everything seemed to upset her now. She wasn’t pleased to see mailings from Army Finance carrying Gwendolyn’s name. She said, you have to change that, they don’t even know I exist. Do I exist?

So the Colonel had to call finance to shut her up. Always before he had underlings to do that, but nobody around the club who knew anything about Finance. An agent in the Cleveland office did. He knew lots. He answered the phone.

I should probably change the name of my spouse on the record. I’m remarried. Can you do that?

Certainly, sir. And when were you divorced from – Gwendolyn?

Oh, about twenty five years ago.

Pause on the line.

Are you there?

Yes, sir. We see you’re still carrying SBP…

(SBP is the Survivors Benefit Program, the insurance retirees pay premiums on to insure the spouse receives up to half their retirement checks.)

And how long have you been remarried?

I married Trixie – about the same amount of time. Six months after the divorce came through.

Another pause.

I’m afraid I have bad news for you, sir. There are no provisions for refund of SBP paid erroneously. It’s the duty of the retired to report any change in dependency, as you see on all your correspondence from us –

Yes, yes, I know all that, but, as I’ve told you, I’m remarried, so the SBP I have already paid is still in effect.

Not quite, sir. SBP is an individual insurance policy, and is not transferable. This is true of any government insurance policy. So nothing you paid for Gwendolyn has anything to do with Trixie.

Well, it’s all water under the bridge, since I’m still here. Just hook me up with Trixie now and I’ll let you go.

It isn’t that simple, sir. You see, all officers are required to carry SBP for the spouse. So we must pick Trixie up from the date of your marriage to her.

Okay, okay, how much will I owe?

I don’t have the figures right in front of me,and I’ll need both the divorce decree and your marriage cert, but it will be something over forty thousand dollars.

Are you still there, Sir?



Smalltown Texan, Blackland Prairie, a senior. Sometimes I have trouble keeping up. Married, with Rottie/Pit. Reading, and some writing, that's me.