In early February, I filed my electronic Form 1040, so named because early government sadists found this was the number of minutes it took to drive the form’s user insane. Fortunately, a few years ago I figured out how to work the IRS’ clever little game by having someone else fill out the forms for me, though this year my girlfriend forced me to do it myself. She’s a sadist, too.
Again this year I navigated the electronic tax maze and managed to get a refund. Every spring for the last decade or so, I have swindled the tax man out of my own money and enjoyed a month of less stress when paying my bills. Power to the people!
A few years ago, however, the IRS caught on to me and has been sending one of its undercover agents to spy on me every March since. This spy, under the guise of a “public relations spokesman,” befriended me by finding our common ground — I used to work for a company that published tax information in California — and continually butters me up by sending information that I can publish in the newspaper for the alleged betterment of my readers. (I print his propaganda from time to time to keep up the façade.)
Following the advice to keep your friends close and your enemies closer, I fraternize with this IRS operative each year on his annual trip to northern Nevada, during which he tries to spread his propaganda in person. On each visit he greets me with a smile, a handshake and a booklet cleverly titled “Tax Guide for (insert year here” or “1040 Instructions,” as if I need a manual on driving myself insane. His powers have no effect on me!
The IRS has come up with quite a cover story for this agent of doom. He has been set up a mild-mannered, even friendly suburban father from some fictitious place called “San Diego, California,” where he supposedly has a wife, two children and a home that hasn’t gone down in value. As if this fantasyland exists!
In past years we have simply gone out to dinner, where he has tried to elicit secrets from me with bribes of food and drink. To his chagrin, I have always kept my wits about me and not compromised any information that “the man” could use against me. This year, though, the spy tried a new tactic. We met at the Grand Sierra Resort (they’re in on it, too?!) and he suggested we go bowling there. This maneuver blindsided me but I played along and as we walked toward his newly appointed torture chamber he asked me if I wanted a “drink.” To win his trust, I allowed him to acquire the “drink” for me without watching him to make sure he didn’t lace it with some truth serum. Little did he know I swallowed an antidote before I arrived so as to not be affected by mind-altering drugs.
When we arrived at the “bowling alley,” we were told by the clerk that if we returned 45 minutes later we’d enjoy a two-for-one special on games. No doubt some sort of code to tell my captor that another IRS agent had not yet finished torturing another hapless victim, we left to get some food and wait for my appointed execution hour. My last meal!
After getting me to relax with friendly conversation, a large hamburger and French fries, we returned to the bowling alley. I was sure I noticed specks of blood on the shiny wood floor that the cleaning crew missed from the previous victim, but I went ahead anyway. This is when I discovered the evil IRS plan. To exact revenge for all the money I had taken back after surviving all those Forms 1040, the government had been spending countless tax dollars training this super agent in the fine art of bowling. It took just a few frames for me to realize I was doomed. I had heard about those remote bowling training centers hidden deep inside desert canyons, but I didn’t believe they existed until now. As he turned toward me after throwing his 99th strike in a row, I caught a glimpse of his eyes. I saw they had been substituted for high-powered scopes and his ears had tiny antennae so the computer chip implanted in his brain could not only record and transmit our every interaction but also so he could bowl me into submission. Not to mention he had an accomplice: a lovely young lady who used her powers of persuasion to continually bring me rum and Coke to weaken my own bowling abilities.
After back-to-back losses by scores of 147-74 and 172-93 I screamed, “I give up! No more! Pleeeaaaaaaase stop! I’ll never file for a refund again!” Just to make sure I had been subdued, the IRS spy said he might have tickets to a magic show the next night and would call me if it worked out. As if humiliating me at bowling wasn’t enough, now he wanted to have me sawed in half or have me stabbed with swords in a box. I guess he sensed I had enough fear for one year, since I received an email message the next day that the magic show was a no-go. My fingers quivered as I replied to his message and thanked him for the night out and said I looked forward to seeing him again next year.
As you can see, even when you think you have Big Brother figured out, he always has something up his sleeve to keep the common man down.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go adjust my withholding.
Nathan Orme is the editor of the Sparks Tribune. He can be reached at email@example.com.