"I love my country, but oh you kid,” I say to my wallet that looks
like he’s been massaged by a 32-wheeler out on the highway.
It’s income tax time – the opposite of Christmas, Chanukah, and your
birthday. Everybody at work is edgy – particularly anybody who had a
good year; maybe got a raise, found some money in the street, or had a
daughter marry thereby losing a dependent and an exemption.
“I had a horrible year,” said my boss. “I made a fortune.”
My friend, Herb, on the other hand is happy as a clam – he lost all of
his savings in the last Market landslide. And then, as icing on the
cake, his wife had major liver surgery. Kept her in the hospital for
45 days. “Every penny of the bill goes directly on line 32A,” says
Herb. He’s already looking good this year, too – one of his kids is
showing signs of needing a reconstructive bone graft. And if only he
can get his out-of-work brother-in-law to move in with them – presto –
he’s got another deduction. “It’s gonna be a great year,” says Herb.
Maybe for Herb, but not for me. Last year I had none of his luck.
All I had was an adequate salary, which will be taxed at the normal
The injustice of this hit me as I sat at the dining room table the
other night filling out blank Salvation Army receipts for donated
antique bedroom sets and solid Maple Colonial dining room tables. My
son approached my work area with reverential fear – he knows Daddy’s a
little on edge this time of year. In fact, one year I got so nervous
that I spilled a pitcher of dark, hot cocoa I was sipping from – all
over my business expense receipts. Sadly, when I was audited six
months later it made the dates and amounts difficult for the examiner
to read. He tried to come up with a penalty for clumsiness, but
Congress hadn’t yet included it in the tax code. They’re lucky. I
could have written off a casualty loss on the rare Costa Rican cocoa I
spilled, but I didn’t.
But as I was saying, here I am at the dining room table converting a
large percentage of my salary check into abortion clinics and
government studies of why the Appalachian chipmunk will only reproduce
in the Spruce groves of the Western slopes of the Smokies. (I say
lock him up long enough and he’ll reproduce in a saw mill.)
In the middle of this thought my son approaches to ask me one of those
six-part homework questions that I suspect is posed by the teacher so
she can finish her doctoral thesis.
Once, I explained to the tax examiner, this very son set his books
down on my working table and accidentally walked away with a $500
receipt for business expenses. Later, my son told me he had converted
Exhibit A into a paper airplane, which he had launched out of his
third story schoolroom window. I explained all this clearly to the
government auditor. “Couldn’t he retrieve it?” he asked. “He tried,”
I said, “but it flew straight into that creek behind the playground
and was washed into the Tennessee River and thence into the
Mississippi – and about now soggy and blurred it floats somewhere in
the Gulf of Mexico.
“If I rented a cabin cruiser to search it out, would the cost be
deductible – how about the car trip to Mobile and two nights in a
hotel?” He showed me to the door – a free man.
That was last year. This year my son was cautious – he stood three
feet away from the wreckage on the table to ask a simple question
about his American History homework.
It brought to mind the Boston Tea Party. Our ancestors started a war
over a penny a pound tax on tea. And here I am sitting at my dining
room table – peaceful and composed – getting ready to mail 20% of my
salary to King George’s equivalent in Washington. And guess who’s
going to pay for the stamp.
Oh well, it could be worse. For years my wife did our taxes. Her
allegiances worried me. She insisted on typewritten receipts with
notary public seal on each one. The only business lunch deduction she
allowed was a brace of Krystals – and only if you used the coupon. If
the IRS had a uniform, she would have worn it.
I relieved her of her duties a few years back so now I lease the
dining room table the first two weeks of April. I’m a little clumsier
than she, too. She’d never spill that costly cocoa. Maybe that’s why
The humor of Ted, the Scribbler on the Roof, appears in newspapers around the U.S., on National Public Radio in Huntsville, Alabama and numerous web sites.