Mordhue Scribner thought often of suicide, the best escape from
her taxing life. In fact, in April she had suicide marked in her day planner as
the perfect end of every day. A normal woman would have marked it for the
beginning of any day of any month, but Mordhue had been extraordinary for
April fifteenth was circled and crossed out.
That was the only day she couldnt kill herself this
year. It was the day of reprieve.
The government had decreed all taxes be postmarked by the
seventeenthtwo extra days! Whatever happened to tradition? Mordhue
despised governmental crimps. They obviously were not thinking in her best
She crossed out the fifteenth with the blood of a paper cut. A
deep wound from the thick side of the booklet shed prepared for a
sequined woman with five shiny rings and platinum hair: the woman insisted upon
deducting ice cream, satellites, and horse feed. The woman didnt own a
horse. She did not deduct satellite TV, but governmental space satellites
paid for by taxpayer money. Diagnosed as lactose intolerant, the
deducted ice cream had never been eaten.
Mordhue overflowed with tolerance. She smiled perpetually. She
resisted her violent side which wanted to pinch tax evaders and pull the hair
of those who rushed to get in under deadline of the third year past-due.
Legally the government had recourse, but morally these were
people. Elderly grandmothers of twelve with two pussycats in their laps. They
had families, hopes, dreams, conquests, problems. If Mordhue had met them under
different circumstances, she thought sometimes that she might grow to like
But she hated people. And she wanted them to know that.
Mordhue Scribner squeezed her paper cuts for two extra days. Let
them wring her dry. But this martyr refused to go out like a match over a
barbecue. Capitulation would only prove that she was alone and unloved. And by
gammit, she didnt have to be unloved! That was the whole point of
Mordhue crossed suicide off her to-do list.
April 18 changed her life. The day the tax lady invaded the IRS.
Mordhue was sick the entire flight. Motion sickness. Even the
flight attendants couldnt look at her. She muttered the whole time:
All gonna die, all gonna die. But she was so sick it didnt
sound like a threat.
Laccoutrement de la guerre: a catchers mask
and catchers chest protector tied over her best linen suit, the mauve one
with the frilly blouse that went with her Scottish grandmothers cameo
pin. She ducked and covered and duck-walked across the floor to the elevator,
as if she were not more conspicuous for doing so.
She reached for the elevator button. An elderly security guard
followed. What do you want, maam?
Mordhue stretched for the button. It would be impolite to stop
her now, not when shed gone to so much trouble!
Which floor? The guard smiled. You people do
come up with nifty ways to get over your phobias.
Mordhue felt like crying; shed forgotten her salad tongues
in the rental car, along with the roast fork. The salad tongues made a
congenial noise when clicked together, and she had once seen them used
ingeniously on the television. The roast fork had been her pride, pointy and
sharp, but light even under duress. Shed planned to sneak past security
as if she were unarmed.
Now, honestly unarmed, she would need to keep her mind open:
kick stools and staplers and the edges of file folders, the things that
attacked her daily in her own office. When they saw her posed next to the kick
stool, they would know she meant business.
The guard pushed her button and moved away. Have a good
day, maam. He tipped his cap.
She waved as the doors slid together. It made her cry when
people were nice.
Thesethese governmental minions who didnt care about
her mental health! These people who had taken two more days from her this year!
These big meanies! Bureaucrats who taught her clientele to demand baubles,
entitlements, and one more deduction! Mordhue psyched herself up.
She needed a hostage. With a hostage, theyd have to meet
her demands. Hostages and kick stools andooohher grandmothers
cameo was wickedly sharp. Multitudinous potential weapons and an attitude, at
her disposal! Protected by the spirit of her dead grandmother and her chest
protector. She valued her bosom, worthless as it had always been.
Mordhue Scribner was thirty-eight, unmarried, childless, and
quite a good hand at bridge. She enjoyed downhill skiing, but not waterskiing,
as she disliked water up the nose. A rousing line dancer, she could clap on
rhythm. She had a lovely smile. People liked her.
Too bad the feeling wasnt mutual.
The elevator rising to her destiny felt like water up her nose.
The drowning was in her mind. Internal. Like revenue. Up, the elevator went,
and down her bottom stayed, firmly planted on the floor.
The elevator dinged. Destiny!
The IRS office was filled with people. People typing, people
gabbing, people yawning, people slapping each other. Short cubicles turned the
room into a hamsters maze.
A woman in a blue pantsuit raged at a man next to the water
cooler. You cant do your job and you look like a pigmy hippo!
She reached up an open hand and slapped herself.
Violet slapped you? the chastised man asked.
But you only look like a hippo when you flail your
I know. She was being rude. Her cheek flared pink
where shed slapped herself.
On the other side of the office a woman in a lime green power
suit slapped a man. You cant do your job and you look like a
Geese, the slappee said. Plural is geese,
Possessive, you twit!
A group of crying women is known as a
Potentialité. This potentialité sobbed their hearts
out and blew their noses with abandon.
Mordhue coveted their Kleenex.
The green Violet ran up to Mordhue Scribner with one hand
raised. She paused, sizing up the catchers mask. Her eyes were lined as
if with red ink. You dont work here?
Mordhue shook her head.
Very well, carry on. Violet raised her fists over
her head. Imbeciles! I want my tax refund and I want it now! Like a
charging water buffalo, she ran for the elevator just as the doors opened.
Gahhh! The elevator swallowed her whole and burped with the kachunk
of an old machine bearing a heavy load.
Although it was nice to see that she wasnt the only one
who had to deal directly with the public, Mordhue could not turn her back on
her mission. Down with life. Down with elevators and women in lime green power
suits. Down with protestation, protestantation, confusion, confession, and
A pinstriped man sidled up to Mordhue. Hello. He
She smiled back from inside her helmet.
Looks like you survived something terrible, he said.
Do you work here?
She shook her head, then nodded, then shook.
The sniffly women watched her curiously. Every cubicle was
occupied by dapper humans and stained coffee cups. The unoccupied chairs sagged
as if theyd forgotten what to do when they werent filled.
Can we help you?
I filed the last one at 11:59 last night and hopped on a
Are you a tax preparer?
Violent, isnt it? he asked. But how
lucky you are! Your job is over, kitten. Do you know it took twelve mailmen
four hours to deliver the mail today? Were expecting it to take fifteen
tomorrow, and by the end of the week, we have a pool going. I placed my bet
that the postal service wouldnt send more than twenty-five.
Its over? she whispered. How can you say
that? The tears sagged in her eyelids like the office furniture. A woman
rushed up with a box of Kleenex. Mordhue pushed the mask atop her head and used
a handful of tissues to stymie the Hoover Dam, but she still drowned.
When I go back theyll be sitting there! Theyll be rude.
Theyll say: Im late filing, will you please deduct this iced
penguin sculpture; I dont have a receipt. Theyll yell at me. They
wont give me a stamp. They wont sign the forms.
Those in their last year of grace begin to panic. They
bring two years of unlabeled receipts. They forget the financial
information for their two homes in the country and eighteen rental properties.
Theyll try to deduct the one in Hoboken just because its condemned.
I think they want the government to repossess it. She sobbed
harder. A woman gave her a hug and cried simultaneously into Mordhues
shoulder. If it hadnt been for the boxes of tissue supplied by the
government, the fourth floor office would have been swimming in tears. The
water cooler would have drifted away and saltwater fishes would have taken up
Mordhue tried to beat the hugger with her mask. Submit, submit!
But it slipped from her fingers and landed with a sploosh on the sodden carpet.
I want to die! Mordhue sobbed.
Me, too! said the woman on her shoulder.
Mordhue patted her kindly and tried to comfort her.
. Pinstripe frowned. I do,
I came here to make you all understand that life sucks,
and I wanted you to take a liking to me, Mordhue sniffled.
Oh, we do, we do, the woman said.
Your face is scrunchy, but that could be sexy.
Pinstripe winked. Ive seen you at your worst.
I wanted to take over the office, but I forgot my
tongs, Mordhue admitted.
The man handed her a stapler.
Thank you. She cuddled the stapler. Although I
dont want to live, now that Ive met you, I dont want to take
you all down with me.
Life sucks! the flirtatious man said. Would
you like an ice cream?
When the elevator doors opened in the lobby and the exuberant
dinging of the call button stopped, Mordhue led the triumphant workers out the
glass doors into bright sunlight and they headed for the ocean.
The security guard called his superior. The singing and dancing
may have tipped him off that this wasnt the end of a normal workday.
Im not sure, but I think they all quit, he said.
The high-stepping parade tore papers into confetti and threw
their own tickertape. Like lemmings, they all dove into the ocean, ecstatic,
never to return.
Life continued, even without taxes, and the IRS, disgruntled by
the loss of so many employees, instituted policies to evade the tax lady.