Life Outside My Cube

My life, a work in progress.

Don’t Mess with the IRS

Smitty pulled the sedan away from the curb and slowly began his circuit around the city block. Despite his nervousness, he noticed his stomach grumbling, and regretted not taking the time for breakfast that morning. He was in such a hurry not to be late he had completely forgotten to eat.

“What the hay,” he thought, “They won’t be done for a ‘nother half hour at least, I got plenty of time to stop at Gloria’s.”  It was his favorite restaurant in town, or rather, the only one within a half-hour of this lonely corner of Arkansas. Smitty had grown up here in Beauford, near the bottom of the 15 in his graduating class, preferring to tinker around engines rather than books. He’d begun doing minor car repairs at Doc’s Auto on the east end right out of high school, and while becoming an expert auto mechanic, never had much ambition to go further, preferring the slow life of a small town. Gloria’s Home Cooking was a regular stop at least once most days.

“Mornin’, Smitty,” a cheerful voice called out. Darlene, the granddaughter of Gloria Wells, for whom the restaurant was named, was the current owner, cook, cashier and waitress. “Late start today, huh? Get’cher usual? Momma made us a coffee cake fer Sunday dinner yesterday, I can cut ya a piece,” she continued, setting a chipped white coffee cup on the counter and pouring it full. Of course, Darlene knew everyone in town, and served them up home cooking and conversation at least once a week. She kept an eye out for Smitty, an only child whose parents had passed years ago.

“Um, yeah, that’s good. I mean, uh, eggs and everything, plus ‘at coffee cake. An’ I gotta get going. Lots to do today.”

“Oh? Whose car you workin’ on now?”

“Car? Oh, um, well, Ol’ Man Jenks needs a exhaust put in, and ah, you know, a bunch of other small stuff. I gotta get goin’,” he concluded, looking out the windows down the street where he’d come from.

“Hmm,” Darlene replied. She could tell Smitty wasn’t telling all. “Ok, Mister Top Secret Project, you know. I’m just yer best friend in the whole world. You don’t have to tell me anything. I’ll just make yer breakfast and feed ya, don’t worry about me!”

Smitty hung his head. He knew he was hiding something, but just couldn’t tell Darlene what he was involved with. He was always open with Darlene; she was like a sister to him. He felt terrible. “Aw, Dar, it’s just… Oh, I don’t know, there’s some things a man’s gotta keep to hisself, you know? I ain’t mean to be secretive or nothin’, I just got some stuff to do an’ can’t tell nobody about it.”

“Ok, fine, fine.” Smitty was the only customer at the time, and the next few minutes were difficult and very quiet. His breakfast finally arrived, and Darlene stood behind the counter refilling his coffee cup. “I”m sorry, Smitty, I don’t mean to pry. It’s just that you and me haven’t had secrets from each other before. I don’t know what to make of it. Is everything all right?”

“Sure!” Smitty answered quickly, but then added, “I guess.” He glanced out the window again, and back to his plate, his cheeks reddening.

“Who you lookin’ fer, child? I ain’t seen you so worked up in a long time.”


“What is it, honey? You can tell me.”

“You know that ol’ house I got? Well, I… oh, man, I is in such a mess, Darlene,” he hesitated, holding his head in his hands. After a moment, he continued, “I ain’t been able to pay no income taxes fer a coupla years now, Doc’s just don’t have enough business to keep up.” He sighed deeply.

“Oh, Smitty,” Darlene said, “I didn’t know things was that bad. You should’a told me!”

“Well that’s not the worst part yet. These outta town guys in suits come in last week and told me they was gonna report me to the IRS, but if’n I’d help ’em out with a job, they’d gimme two thousand dollars! Dar, that’s mor’n enough to pay all my back taxes! Oh, I didn’t know what to do, so’s I just said yes, an’ here I am, but I think they’re doin’ somethin’ terrible.”

“What do you mean, here you are? What are you supposed to be doing?”

“Jest driving. You know, pick ’em up when they finish their business at the bank, and drive ’em out to the county line bridge. Oh, it just don’t feel right,” he wailed.

“At the bank?…” Darlene paused. “You don’t think…”

Their conversation was interrupted by a siren. Quickly turning toward the front window, Smitty looked on as the squad car pulled up to the bank building and two officers bounded out and into the front doors. Smitty and Darlene couldn’t speak; a hundred thoughts going through their heads. A minute later, the officers led out two men in handcuffs and into the police car.

“Did you know…”

“Oh, I didn’t even ask what their business was, I know I shoulda, but I was in such a mess,” Smitty moaned. “That coulda been me bein’ arrested, if’n I’d been waitin’ for ’em at the curb like I’s supposed to. Glory be, Darlene, if you hadn’t a kept after me with your questions, you’d be seein’ me in tha jail. Jes’ like yer mother, never a minute o’ peace around here when she was around…”

“Why you ungrateful wretch, Smitty, I oughtta smack you silly, you old good for nothin’…”

She stopped and began to grin as Smitty looked up at her, beaming. “Gotcha!”

“You!” Darlene reached over the counter and hugged Smitty around the shoulders.

“I’ll get them taxes paid somehow,” he said. “An’ I ain’t gonna do no more work for strangers without askin’ more questions!”

* Question 7


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