The Last Taxpayer

By Jay Duret

The Last Taxpayer

The two men were in the locker room. The tall one was stripping down after a sweaty workout. The short bearded one sat on a stool, slowly and tiredly pulling off his work socks, getting ready for his session in the gym.

The tall one said, “Rodge, I never see you. How long you in for?”

“Came in yesterday, leaving tomorrow.”

“Three days. In and out. That’s a quick trip.”

“And that’s all I am gonna be doing. Gotta be careful.”

“Yeah?”

“It’s quick but I get a lot done. Tues to Thursday, that’s most of the week. And it only counts as three days.”

“How many can you have?”

“There is no bright line. That’s why I have to be careful.”

“I thought 183 was the bright line.”

“Yeah 183 and you are definitely screwed. But you can be screwed with a lot less. The only thing you can actually count on is that less than 45 days is okay.”

“Really?”

“But anything beyond 45 and, well, you just don’t know.”

“Seems harsh.”

“You really have to be careful.”

“I guess.”

Rodge said, “Trust me. You don’t want to be on the wrong side of the line, wherever it gets drawn. We are talking beaucoup dollars.”

“Yeah, I bet.”

Beaucoup. If it weren’t so much, I wouldn’t worry. I love San Francisco.  Mostly. I’d be here all the time, but it is just impossible. Can’t take that kind of a risk.”

“Well at least you can get to the gym. You keep your membership?”

“Yeah, they let me. But I have been working so hard with the travel and everything I don’t feel that much like working out.”

“Dude, don’t say that. You used to be fanatic #1.”

“Gotta be realistic. I fly in and I’m going to a meeting straight from the airport and then they are all stacked up for 3 straight days. I hardly get any downtime, even at night. Dinner meetings every night and then back to the airport. It’s wearing me down, frankly.”

“Dude you gotta manage your life better. Gotta take care of yourself.”

“I know. I know. But when?”

“What about when you are home?”

“That’s just as bad cause I have all the follow-up when I get back and as soon as that’s done I have to start preparing for the next trip – I am coming at least twice a month.”

“That’s gonna get you way over 45 days, Dude. Three days a week, twice a month? That’s more than seventy days.”

“I know. I know. It’s stressing me out. Some days I get palpitations when I think about it. I have to figure out how to cut back.”

“You ever think about coming in disguise?”

Disguise?”

“Yeah I was seeing this program about Robert Durst and he was worried people were following him so he rented an apartment dressed up as a woman. You should do that.”

“You are saying I should come to San Francisco in drag?”

“It is San Francisco. Nobody’d give a damn.”

“Claudia might.”

“What does she think about you being away so much?”

“She misses the city. She wants to come. She keeps saying that I have got her in a Bedouin prison.”

“Bedouin prison?”

“Cause we live in the desert I guess. I mean I wonder what she wants. We have sun 365 and she has golf with her friends whenever she feels like it.”

“You guys are crazy. You are city people. You should just throw in the towel and buy a house here and pay taxes out the wazoo like everyone else.”

You are crazy. You know how much that will cost me?”

“Beaucoup?”

“Ha Ha. I am not frickkin’ kidding.”

“But it’s for a good purpose. It goes to the schools. You used to be all over the schools. Didn’t you donate big bucks to the children’s scholarship deal?”

“Still do.”

“So pay some more taxes and do the same thing.”

“You are turning into a socialist. I am not giving to the bureaucracy so it can waste 90% of the money before it gets to the kids. I don’t want to give my money to the Teacher’s Union so they can continue to educate kids who can’t read at their grade level. I’ll give my money where it can make a difference.”

“Apparently you feel strongly.”

“You know in Korea on the day they have the big exams for college placement the government stops all the planes in the country from flying while the test is going on. They stop all the planes! For hours! Can you imagine us doing that?”

“Actually no. It’s over the top don’t you think?

“But Bo, that’s the competition! If we don’t keep up we are going to be run under. And it’s happening.”

“The sky is falling is it?”

“This is no Chicken Little business. I am telling you I see it every day. People are living in the past. You should see what is happening in Singapore and Shanghai and Mumbai. They are hungry there. Their workers work hard. They are eating our lunch.”

“I forgot they invented the Mac in Mumbai.”

‘You laugh but you won’t be when your job is being is being done in Malaysia.”

“Malaysia’s getting big in brand management?”

“You’ll see.”

“But how are you fixing that by hiding like outlaws in the Nevada desert and skipping out on your California taxes?” Bo launched into a snatch of Friend of the Devil: “’I lit out from Reno I was trailed by twenty hounds..’ God, I love that song.”

“Very funny. I am doing what we all should be doing. Doesn’t help anyone to feed the Beast. We should starve it. If government was half the size it’d do twice as much.”

“You actually believe that?”

“I do. And you should.”

“Jesus. You’ve become a Republican.”

“I am a Libertarian.”

“You sound like a Republican. What does Claudia think about that? She used to be a flamer.”

“Oh she still is.”

“But she is going along with you on this?”

“She’s not crazy about it but yeah. It’s her money too.”

“How long has she been locked up in the desert with the money?”

“Not funny.”

“Lighten up, Rodge. How long?”

“Four months maybe.”

“That’s all? And she is already climbing the walls?”

“I didn’t say that.”

“Reading between the lines, bro.”

“She’ll get used to it. And once the ski season gets here she’ll be in heaven.”

“If we ever have any snow again.”

“Oh come on Bo, don’t start with the climate business. We had more snow in Reno last year than in a decade.”

“Rodge, Rodge, Rodge. Don’t tell me you’ve become a Denier too?”

“Trust me, as soon as the politicians get us to believe that there is climate change they will tell us they have to raise our taxes to pay for it. And it won’t be China and Singapore and Korea who are paying; it’ll be you and me.”

“Actually just me cause you’ll be hiding out in the desert.”

“You’ll be hiding with me when you see what the tax bill looks like. People like you just don’t want to face up what’s going on all around us. You just wait.”

“When did you get this dour? You used to be fun. Well not a lot of fun. But at least mildly entertaining. Now you are all doom and gloom. No wonder Claudia is losing her mind.”

“Women and children can be careless. A man has got to be serious.”

‘Jesus, that’s right out of The Godfather. That’s what Brando says to Michael when he says he doesn’t want to be a puppet for someone else pulling the strings.” Bo stooped, cocked his face to the left and launched a poor imitation of Brando’s scratchy voice, “’Whoever comes to you with this Barzini meeting, he’s the traitor. Don’t forget that.’ God I love that movie.”

“I am serious.”

“You said that. I just don’t see that running out on your taxes is the sign of a serious man.”

“You’ll see. Remember when we used to do that deal in the restaurant in college? We’d get everybody except one poor guy in on it and then when the check came we’d all bolt at the same time and the one guy who didn’t know would be sitting there with a WTF on his face and he’d have to pay for everybody. Remember?”

“God, that was bad. I can’t believe we ever did that. What little shits we were. Jesus.”

“Hate to tell you this, Bo, but we are still doing it. We never stopped. It’s just not a check at a restaurant anymore. And now you are the last guy. You are that guy.”

“Thanks a lot.”

Rodge got up and stuffed his socks into his gym satchel. He smiled. “And by the way, when you pay the tax bill, leave a little tip. Don’t want them thinking we are cheap at our table.”

“Ha Ha.”

Rodge smiled wide, clearly energized by the exchange. He slapped his locker closed, extracted the key and headed down to the gym for his workout. As he left he sang a bar of the old Janis Joplin song, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose…” He looked back over his shoulder, “God I love that song. Love it.”

***

Jay Duret is a San Francisco based writer and illustrator who blogs at www.jayduret.com. His first novel, Nine Digits, is published by Indigo Sea Press

3 Comments

Filed under writing

3 responses to “The Last Taxpayer

  1. Jay – insightful and entertaining – as usual.

  2. Entertaining and tragic both at once – that’s quite an achievement. Great piece.

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