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The Essay
Show #410
The Beano Counters
David Gunn

"Dear Mr. Bengaze," began the letter, "your federal income tax return for the year shown above has been selected at random for a compliance research examination. We must examine randomly selected ..." Beano covered the rest of the letter with his hand so he wouldn't have to hear its tedious message. But the governmental entity whence the letter spawned had imbued the words with powerful magic, and they broke through even his puissant shamanic powers. "...will improve our efforts to help taxpayers understand and follow the tax law, reduce unnecessary and costly examinations and reduce burden on taxpayers."

The weather outside Beano Bengaze's cabin reflected his mood: rain fell in impressively inclement sheeps; lightning flashed, illuminating darkly swollen dunderheads; the wind howled like ... like a musical mystic facing a tax audit without a shred of income documentation.

"It is important that you have the following information available for our examination," the letter droned, and there followed a list of materials that sounded like it had been assembled by a committee whose only commonality was ingrown toenails.

He let his arm go limp and the letter fell to the floor, where it directed its chunterings to an extended family of dust mites. The common house dust mite has neither eyes nor an organized respiratory system, however it apparently does have a low tolerance for bureaucratese, for each one ran away as fast as their eight suckered and hooked legs could convey them.

Beano's limp arm, meanwhile, had slithered across the floor to the front door. But before it could escape the cabin through the door's mail slot, Beano reeled it, kicking and screaming, back in.

Maybe he shouldn't have placed that ad in "Shamanic Monthly," but his Italian cousin, Linguino, had assured him that doing so would bring attention to his flagging business. It did that and more, for, following on the heels of a few well-heeled customers, came the Beano counters.

The incessant muttering from the letter was driving Beano to distraction, so he scooped it up, pitched it outside and slammed the door shut. A moment later he heard over the drumming of the rain on the roof a tinny voice whining, "I'm melting; Iím melting!" If only he could exorcise the treasury agents so easily! Well, by muttering a phrase or two of his own, he could turn them into their badger namesakes, no problem. But that would address only the symptom; the problem of his sudden materialization on the Red Tape Society's radar screen would persist.

Gradually, however, a plan employing two of his better talents--deceit and chicanery--took shape in his mind. When, a week later, the tax subdivision's emissary appeared at Beanoís door to pore over his ledgers, he was ready.

She identified herself as Agent 03-94241-PX. She wore an amorphous dun garment to which were affixed half a dozen scratch-and-sniff Schedule C forms. She stood sixteen hands high, all but two of which were tightly balled into little fists. Along with traces of carbon monoxide, she exuded a linoleum-like personality.

Brushing wordlessly past Beano, she strode into his cabin, seated herself at his table and withdrew from a shrouded pouch a sheaf of forms. "Mr. Bengaze," she began in an irritable voice that boxed his ears, "you seem to have never, ever filed an income tax return. How do you account for that?" Glowering at him, she raked a fingernail along one of the Schedule C forms, and there issued from her the unmistakable odor of encumbrance.

Smiling ambiguously, Beano closed the door and approached her, but the pungent eau-de-l'empêchement kept him at bay. "There seems to be a minor semantic incongruence between your use of that term and mine," he began, waving away the agent's taxic effluvium. "You say tax as in 'a contribution for the support of a government required of persons within the domain of that government.' I say tax as in 'short for taxidermy, or, the art of preparing, stuffing and mounting an animal for exhibition in a lifelike state.'"

Suddenly, Weasel Slayer, the bi-nosal warrior ancestor of Otto Lummer and one of the original Spirit Guides of Navajo mythology, emerged from the chimney. He had been summoned by Beano's arm-waving, which hadn't been only to ward off the scratch-and-sniff fetor after all. He uttered an incantation that opened the Algonquin Hole which permanently loomed over this sector of the universe, and, with Agent 03-94241-PX involuntarily in tow, disappeared therein.

Moments later, Beano heard a loud thud outside his cabin. He opened the door to discover a package on the ground. He glanced overhead in time to see the Algonquin Hole wink back out of existence. Inside the package was a lifelike pile of dun-colored hands, whose fingers had been bent to form the numerals 10 and 40, but which now smelled only of approval.

Ah, if only the simple wave of an arm and invocation of a warrior ancestor could so easily remove all such irritants! A mere presto-chango converts this 410th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar into high art! Alas, the best it can do is turn the declaimer into Kalvos.