When the Young Widow Wins the Case for Her Lost Husband

Michele Lent Hirsch

A man named Boro Jonesy thinks that nobody’s life is worth that much
or at least he says so in the comments. He thinks the woman whose

husband died at just thirty-six is wrong to have sued
the tobacco company. The amount is obscene and unjust he writes.

That twenty-three billion makes him spit. When I was
in grade school my father explained that a person is worth

an amount. He wished it weren’t so, believed it wasn’t true, but
he had a JD, had a firm. Told me it hurt him to slap a number

on a child, one who might have lived had his doctor removed a lump.
Said that children get more money—when they’re dead, that’s what

we mean here—because a dead child had potential to earn money
his whole life. A man of fifty or thirty-six who had a job: that

makes it harder. If he sopped up stickywater from the
slushy machines, how to prove his wife deserves a fortune?

I don’t agree, Dad said to me, but that’s the way it is.
So I sat in my room on the edge of my bed, doing math. Thinking

how much my ten years of life plus my Lost Earning Capacity
would yield for my parents if I died suddenly, if they sued

desperately, if they tried to get a sum when I was gone. Now
I wonder if Boro Jonesy is calculating his worth, sitting on his bed

too. Thinking nobody’s worth billions. Thinking he’s not
in the millions, not even sure of the thousands, maybe he’d rather

not use numbers, maybe he needs a glass of water. Maybe it’s
time to go to bed and then wake up.