General Fiction posted January 23, 2023 Chapters:  ...49 50 -51- 52... 

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Part III - 5 years later (1993)

A chapter in the book Some Call It Luck

Some Call It Luck - Chapter 51

by Jim Wile

A brilliant and beautiful but insecure, nerdy young woman befriends a going nowhere older alcoholic caddie. Together, they bring out the best in each other and collaborate on a startling new invention
(See the Author Notes for a description of the main characters.)
Recap: Abby and E.J. enter a national bridge tournament at Penn State in October. There E.J. meets one of Abby’s professors who is also playing in the tournament. Dr. Gregorian is impressed by E.J. and asks him to make an appointment to visit with him. Abby is thrilled by this and is convinced this will help E.J. get enrolled at Penn State. E.J. meets with Dr. Gregorian, and two days later with Dr. Kaufman, the head of the computer science department. He is impressed with E.J. and expedites his enrollment as a computer science student. E.J. begins his new college career in January.

Abby and Kenny get married in June, and E.J. is an usher at the wedding. Over the next few years, he completes his bachelor’s degree and enters a master’s program at Penn State. He is a teaching assistant during those two years and feels his life is finally on track as Part 2 ends.
Part III
Abby Payne
March, 1993
I just found out yesterday that I’m pregnant with my second child, and it’s been just a little over a year since the birth of my first. I’m 28 now, and life seems to be moving along at high speed.

So much has happened in these past few years. I graduated from Penn State with my master’s degree in applied mathematics in two years, and shortly after that I started my first real job (aside from the hardware store and the snack bar at Brentwood) as an actuary for a large insurance company called Merton Insurance.

An actuary is a mathematician who measures and manages risk. Working for an insurance company, my job is to make predictive models by analyzing statistics. This helps to determine both insurability and premium rates.

Like mathematics in general, this is another male-dominated field, and I’m the only woman in the actuarial department. But my boss (and mentor) is a very smart man and didn’t let that affect his decision to hire me.

His name is Leroy Evans, a black man, who is a very good mathematician and an excellent boss. He took me under his wing when I started by teaching me the insurance business from top to bottom. Leroy helped me get over my initial fears about fitting in with this group of men. I kept mostly to myself at first, but Leroy helped to crack my shell by including me in meetings with other actuaries and asking me to express my opinions on various topics. He also encouraged me to talk about the things I was working on. This went a long way toward gaining the respect of my colleagues and fitting in with the group, as well as building confidence in myself.

I was a little over a year into the job at Merton when Kenny decided to quit his job at Wingate Industries and become a full partner with Eddie in the golf equipment business. He had been designing putters with Eddie for a number of years on a part-time basis, but some of their putters had hit the big time with purchases by a few well-known PGA touring professionals, and Kenny figured it was time to take the leap.

We had moved to Altoona, Pennsylvania a year ago because that’s where my job was located. Eddie moved down here too. He had been living in a small house in DuBois, but desired a bigger place. It didn’t matter where he lived to do his job, he said, because his basement was his workshop. He hoped that Kenny would come and work with him sometime, and eventually that’s what happened.

We had celebrated the new partnership with a fancy meal out, and it was that very night that I told Kenny I was pregnant with our first baby. I had found out the day before and decided to wait until after the big job celebration to tell him. He was thrilled, as we both wanted children very much.

I continued to work until about a week before my due date. My boss Leroy was also thrilled for me. He told me to take as much time off as I needed, and that my job would be there for me when I came back.

“Even for a year?” I asked him.

“Even for a year,” he said. He adored me and Kenny too. We had been to his and his wife Martha’s house for dinner on more than one occasion. His kids were grown now, but he had been a real family man when they were younger, and he understood the importance of being there for little ones, especially during the early years. He assured me again that my job would be waiting for me. What a boss!

Little Claire was born about two weeks later. We named her after my maiden-name, St. Claire. She was a green-eyed baldy, but when her hair finally came in, she was a little redhead like me. Everyone said she was the spitting image of me.

Neither Kenny nor I got a full night’s sleep those first few months, as Claire proved to be colicky, but she soon grew into a very pleasant baby and toddler.

I stayed home with her for a year before going back to work fulltime at Merton Insurance. True to his word, Leroy hired me back, and it was great to be back. I loved being with my daughter for that first year, but I also loved my job.

I threw myself into my work for the next few months and made a significant contribution to developing some new predictive models.

So it was with some trepidation that I went to Leroy again this morning and announced that I was pregnant again with my second child. I told him that I hoped beyond hope that that wouldn’t spell the end of my career there, but he was genuinely thrilled for me and Kenny again and said that if I wanted to come back, I would have nothing to worry about.

I thanked him from the bottom of my heart for being so generous with me, and he said that he would be a fool not to hire me back, that I was an invaluable member of the team, and that he envisioned greater things for me if I decided to return. God, I love him.
Abby Payne
1993 - 1997
November, 1993 saw the birth of our son, Gregory. He was a strapping little baby with a full head of auburn hair. Claire was two by then and loved having a baby brother. He was a good little baby and slept through the night after only a month.

As I did with Claire, I stayed home for a year after Gregory was born, but I missed my job and eventually returned to Merton.

The job went well for the next two years, and during that time I was promoted to senior actuary. The work was challenging as we continued to develop new predictive models. I began questioning some of the assumptions the old models were based on and started working on a radically different approach to risk management with much support from Leroy.

I was greatly saddened the day he announced his retirement. He had recently turned 65 and now qualified for a nice pension. He could have worked a little longer, but decided he wanted to do some traveling with Martha before he got too old for it.

Leroy recommended me as his replacement to head the department, but upper management had other ideas. Instead, they hired a man from outside the company, who had plenty of managerial experience but seemingly little knowledge of actuarial science.

His name was William Hurley, but he liked to be called Billy. He was a good ole boy and struck me as a real chauvinist. I was still the only woman in the actuarial department, and when his secretary ever needed a day off, he would always ask me to bring him his coffee and type his correspondence—never any of the guys, some of whom were junior actuaries.

It was insulting, but I tried not to dwell on it. Instead, I did what he asked, then lost myself in my work. I continued developing the new protocols I had been working on when Leroy left, and I shared some of my ideas with my fellow actuaries. I never dreamed this would come back to haunt me.

Eventually, Billy Hurley realized he was in over his head, and being the political animal that he was, he talked upper management into assigning him a new role as “Director of Analytics” and letting him appoint an Actuarial Department Manager to do the job he was incapable of doing. This was a totally unwarranted change in the management hierarchy, in my opinion.

Much to my chagrin, he chose Stuart Larkin as his new manager. Stuart was a mediocre actuary at best, but he had pitched a great new approach to Billy Hurley, which turned out to be my new ideas that I had shared with him.

When I heard about this, I immediately went into his office and confronted him. “Stuart, I understand that you told Billy that the new protocols were your idea.”

“They are my idea, Abby. You’re not the only one who’s been thinking along these lines.”

“But do you even understand the mathematics involved? No offense, but you don’t strike me as someone who has studied the Naïve-Bayes conditional probability theorem.”

“Listen, Abby, I don’t like what you’re implying here. Plus, I don’t think you have the ability to be a manager, and neither did Billy. If I hear any more about this from you, I’m going to have to let you go. Are we clear?”

I just stared at him for a few seconds, then I stormed out of his office. I was so angry at the underhanded method he used to get the job that I deserved.

I continued working there, but in just a few short days, my confidence, which had been at an all-time high, was eroding rapidly. Larkin’s words made me question if I really did have the ability to be a manager. I had no experience managing other people. I’ve always liked working on my own and being a behind-the-scenes kind of person. Managing others would be a new kind of challenge, and maybe I wasn’t ready for it yet.

All of a sudden, my dream job had turned into a nightmare, and my future there at Merton was uncertain at best. It was so unfair. I stuck it out for another two weeks, during which time Larkin started to implement some of my new protocols incorrectly. I broached him on this, but he didn’t want to hear it. I just couldn’t stand it anymore, and after a heartfelt discussion with Kenny one night, I turned in my resignation the next day.

How could things have gone so wrong so quickly? I was disgusted with work and decided to just stay home with my kids for a while and not look for another job right away.

Abby St. Claire: She has just started grad school at Penn State University where she is a math major. She is intelligent and beautiful, yet shy and awkward with most people her age, having been picked on quite a lot while growing up. She worked at the snack bar and as a waitress at Brentwood Country Club during the summers where she met both E.J. and Kenny, who is a member at Brentwood and became her boyfriend and eventually her husband.
E.J. Budrowski: A 40ish alcoholic with a traumatic past (an abusive father and a mother driven to suicide) who is a caddie at Brentwood CC. One day he finds a dirty old golf ball on the edge of a pond that seems to have unusual powers, for he makes two holes-in-one with it. He and Abby become friends when she encourages him to take up both golf and bridge again after long layoffs. He finally quits drinking and returns to college.
Kenny Payne: Abby met him briefly at a frat party in her senior year and was intrigued by him, then she sees him again when he walks up to the snack bar several months later. Tall, good looking, and an all-around nice guy. After less than a year of courtship, he marries Abby.
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