SOCIAL DISTANCING, Chapter 49: In Which I Face Half Of The Inevitable

By Liz McLeod
Still Your House Manager
 
“This clutter is unacceptable,” declared Miss Carol T. Cat, as she knocked a shoebox full of receipts off the kitchen table and onto the kitchen floor.
 
I blinked. What else can you do when you’ve been awake for thirty-six hours straight? That’s the kind of a weekend it was.
 
“Is that clutter any more acceptable on the floor than it is on the table?” I queried, in what, in my state of near-delirium, I imagined to be an impeccable sword-thrust of logic.
 
“On the floor,” Miss Carol replied, as she thumped in its general direction, “this random scattering of pocket-and-purse-worn slips and tatters will provide sufficient enrichment to hasten the passage of this otherwise-interminable afternoon. You should be grateful that I have spared you the effort of entertaining me as you labor away at pointless toil.”
 
“I’m doing my taxes,” in that scraping nasal whine that I reserve exclusively for that weekend when I am Doing My Taxes. “And as always, you are of no help.”
 
Miss Carol scoffed between bites of an Applebee’s sales slip, a ragged remnant of a pleasant lunch taken in those long-ago pre-pandemic times. “As you know,” she droned in the voice of one firmly convinced of the exclusive certainty of her views, “I favor the so-called ‘single tax’ plan advanced in the late 19th Century by the late economist Henry George. It is my view that the present complexity of the American tax code is profoundly unnecessary. If you wish, I shall at this time outline my beliefs in great and all-consuming detail.”
 
“Nertz,” I growled. “That’s what the internet is for. Go post on Reddit and let me work.”
 
“You cannot claim me as a dependent,” she warned. “In fact, it is painfully obvious that it is you who is entirely dependent upon me. Were it not for my strict control of your personal habits, it is unlikely that you would be in any way a productive member of society. Instead you would loll pointless in bed until representatives of the bank that holds the chattel on this dismal shanty arrived to forcibly remove you.”
 
“Sez the one who sleeps eighteen hours a day,” I muttered, as I tried to figure out if I could deduct all those Humpty Dumpty potato chips I ate last year as a “home office” expense. I mean, it even suggests “office snacks” would qualify, but how do I know that’s not a gag stuck in there by the underpaid coder who put together this cheesy software I’m using?  It’s questions like this that keep me awake nights.  These freelance writing jobs I do on the side create many complications in my life when tax time rolls around. Actually, I correct myself – tax time does not “roll around.” It falls on you like a sandbag and you spend an entire weekend trying to push it off.
 
Miss Carol finished eating two sales slips and what appeared to be part of the bill for fixing my brakes last August. I used my car to ride staff out to the Drive In last summer, so that ought to be deductible, right?  Will they accept a bill that’s half eaten by a cat? What if they audit me? Can I just show them Miss Carol as evidence? I bet H & R Block never gets questions like that, but then again, they’ve never had to deal with me after three days of sleep deprivation.
 
“I’m almost done here,” I exhaled, in that way that I imagine I might exhale going up Heartbreak Hill if I was ever so rash as to attempt to run the Boston Marathon. Actually, if I ever tried that I’d probably pull a Rosie Ruiz, but hey, you know her name and not the name of whoever it was who won that year, so that’s gotta count for something, right? You see what my mind does when I’m sleep deprived? I let out another triumphant sigh as I pressed the button marked “TRANSMIT.”
 
“I cannot help but notice,” Miss Carol commented, “that this envelope containing a 1099-MISC form from one of your writing clients remains unopened. No doubt this was an error, and you have omitted vital information from your return.”
 
I dropped my head to the worn old tablecloth and emitted a sound not unlike that of a wounded elk. Actually, I’ve never heard a wounded Elk, but I did hear a Knight of Pythias once with a sprained ankle, and he made a pretty loud noise.
 
“Do not be alarmed. The authorities will no doubt be stern but merciful in the handling of your case. When you are sentenced to the Federal penitentiary for tax evasion, doubtless you will be permitted the occasional visitor. I shall make every effort to comfort you during your incarceration.”
 
“Ridiculous fat barrel cat,” I groaned in the voice of a poor taxpayer just trying to get along.
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