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The Tax Lady Invades the IRS. By Dawn Wilson.


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 years.

April fifteenth was circled and crossed out.

That was the only day she couldn’t kill herself this year. It was the day of reprieve.

The government had decreed all taxes be postmarked by the seventeenth—two extra days! Whatever happened to tradition? Mordhue despised governmental crimps. They obviously were not thinking in her best interest.

She crossed out the fifteenth with the blood of a paper cut. A deep wound from the thick side of the booklet she’d 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 didn’t 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 them.

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 didn’t have to be unloved! That was the whole point of Stockholm syndrome.

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 couldn’t look at her. She muttered the whole time: “All gonna die, all gonna die.” But she was so sick it didn’t sound like a threat.


L’accoutrement de la guerre: a catcher’s mask and catcher’s chest protector tied over her best linen suit, the mauve one with the frilly blouse that went with her Scottish grandmother’s 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, ma’am?”

Mordhue stretched for the button. It would be impolite to stop her now, not when she’d 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; she’d 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. She’d 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, ma’am.” He tipped his cap.

She waved as the doors slid together. It made her cry when people were nice.


These—these governmental minions who didn’t 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, they’d have to meet her demands. Hostages and kick stools and—oooh—her grandmother’s 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 wasn’t 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 hamster’s maze.

A woman in a blue pantsuit raged at a man next to the water cooler. “You can’t 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.

“She did.”

“But you only look like a hippo when you flail your nostrils.”

“I know. She was being rude.” Her cheek flared pink where she’d slapped herself.

On the other side of the office a woman in a lime green power suit slapped a man. “You can’t do your job and you look like a goose’s gander.”

“Geese,” the slappee said. “Plural is geese, Violet.”

“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 catcher’s mask. Her eyes were lined as if with red ink. “You don’t 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 wasn’t 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 criticism.

A pinstriped man sidled up to Mordhue. “Hello.” He smiled.

She smiled back from inside her helmet.

“Looks like you survived something terrible,” he said.

She nodded.

“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 they’d forgotten what to do when they weren’t filled.

“Can we help you?”

“I filed the last one at 11:59 last night and hopped on a plane here.”

“Are you a tax preparer?”

She nodded.

“Violent, isn’t 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? We’re 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 wouldn’t send more than twenty-five.”

“It’s 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 they’ll be sitting there! They’ll be rude. They’ll say: I’m late filing, will you please deduct this iced penguin sculpture; I don’t have a receipt. They’ll yell at me. They won’t give me a stamp. They won’t 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. They’ll try to deduct the one in Hoboken just because it’s condemned. I think they want the government to repossess it.” She sobbed harder. A woman gave her a hug and cried simultaneously into Mordhue’s shoulder. If it hadn’t 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 residence.

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.

“Hmm, sometimes….” Pinstripe frowned. “I do, too.”

“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. “I’ve 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 don’t want to live, now that I’ve met you, I don’t 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 wasn’t the end of a normal workday. “I’m 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.



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