Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Tax Zone

With apologies to Rod Serling.

Tiberius Quartermain had just returned home from another day of trading Triscuits on the wheat exchange. "What peace!" he thought, pacing through the last steps of daily journey back to his door. Anticipating the liberty of the evening, weary Tiberius hung up his overcoat and unlaced his bluchers. He finished the day's last duty by feeding Bimperl, his wife's Pomeranian, and then for himself he prepared some tea. At last like every other Friday, Tiberius, with his Earl Grey steeping beside him, sank into his lounger to dilute amongst the noble lays of Schwanda, der Dudelsackpfeifer.

Just as Tiberius began to list asleep the telephone rang. Tiberius, who could bear no cacophony of any kind, vaulted from his cozy repose to arrest the clamor. "Hello," he gargled, before clearing his throat.

"Hello is this Teeberoos Quarterman?" the woman asked. Tiberius heard enough of the faint voice to recognize his mangled nomen.

"Yes, this is Tie-bee-ree-uhs Kwor-ter-mayn," Tiberius articulated as he lifted the head off the record.

"Oh good, Mr. Quarterman." the woman replied, "We're so glad we found you and boy are you going to be glad we did."

With Schwanda silenced Tiberius resigned himself to the conversation. "Yes and whom do you represent, madam?" he asked.

"We've called to tell you about our special program which we know you will–"

"Pardon me madam, please," Tiberius interrupted, "but whom do you represent."

"I'm from the government," she replied, "and I'm here to help."

But no one could help Tiberius now, for although he didn't know it, he was in. . . The Tax Zone.

"Help?" Tiberius asked.

"That's right Mr. Quarterman," the woman affirmed. "we help you manage your money with our Taxes program."

"Oh, how?" Tiberius asked, glancing over to his tea for a hint of steam.

"We take it. Mr. Quarterman."

"You take it?"

"We take it."

"How much?"

"As much as we want."

"Come again?" Tiberius asked, shaking his head. "How much?"

"As much as we want, really. We do tell you in advance how much, though. . . Sort of. I mean it's pretty hard to figure out exactly what we want but we give you something to go on."

"Well what do you do with it?" Tiberius asked.

"Everything. Mr. Quarterman. Ab-so-lutely everything."

"Can I tell you how to spend it?" Tiberius asked nervously.

"Of course, Mr. Quarterman," she said reassuringly. "Of course you can tell us. Not tell as in order but you can inform us of what you want, sure."

"Don't you have to listen?"

"Not really, no, we don't, but we really do listen. Listen as in hear, not as obey, but we really do."

"So how do I get my money back?" Tiberius inquired, thoroughly befuddled.

"Oh we handle that for you, Mr. Quarterman. That's a lot of work, you  don't want to handle all of that."

"But I get my money back? he insisted.

"You bet you do," she reassured him.

"All of it?" he asked, unconvinced.

She hummed into the phone a while as she considered Tiberius' query. "It's possible." She concluded. "Someone did once, I believe. I have to tell you it's not likely Mr. Quarterman."

"Why's that?"

"A lot of reasons. We have to cover our expenses and sometimes other departments need money which has to come from somewhere. We give away some and I admit we do lose some from time to time. It's very complicated Mr. Quarterman."

"That's ridiculous!" Tiberius burst out.

"But Mr. Quarterman you will get money back."

"Some of it," he insisted, "And just when would that be?"

"Shortly before you die. Maybe very shortly because we push that date back a lot because as I said we we really do have a lot of expenses and–"

"You know I've been doing just fine managing my own money so I really don't think–" Tiberius had tried  to interrupt and not leave any room for her to continue but she managed step back in."

"I'm sorry Mr. Quarterman. I seem to have given you the wrong impression."

"Oh?" Tiberius managed, reigning in his contempt.

"Our program is not optional. You're already enrolled."

"No. No. No, it's not it can't be I'm just sitting here minding my own business and I'm free–"

"It's too late Mr. Quarterman. We're coming."

"Just try it! Try it! Try!" Tiberius stormed and slammed the phone down as his wife entered.

"You won't believe this! You just won't! The government is going to take all of our money with. .  .with Taxes.'

"Relax honey, just relax." she tried to calm him.

"How can you just. . ."

"We're fine. Why are you so worried about taxes?" She began to assure him as she walked away down the hall, "We've been paying them all along."

Tiberius stood sicklied over with the pale cast of revelation. He finally realized he was in. . . The Tax Zone.

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