Skip to comments.Diligence
Posted on 09/06/2010 4:51:37 PM PDT by pickrell
"You still have enough time to change your mind and make things right between you and Him," the priest intoned. "Are you certain you wish to waste this last chance at salvation, Jerry?"
"It's long past having gone too far for that, Father," the younger man sighed. "I did what I did, and if I escaped, I'd do it all over again." He faced the two guards at the cell door, and squared his shoulders for the long walk. Given the lifestyle he had chosen, it had to come to this eventually.
Funny, but the thing that caught his mind in these last few minutes were the shoes. The guards wore the same shoes as every other guard he had seen here. They cost much more than his whole wardrobe, were polished more carefully, and spoke of successful union negotiations. His eyes dropped down to his own footwear and he couldn't help but rub them against the back of his pantlegs. May as well make the effort, to keep up appearances to the end.
The occupants of the cells he passed struggled to avert their eyes, while at the same time watching his every step. Before long it would be their turn, and stomachs tightened as he walked. At the end of the hall, a man in a suit costing more than the prisoner's entire net worth, waved the somber procession to the right.
Inside they moved to the bench that had haunted his dreams for the last few nights. The seat... the seat was exactly as he had pictured it each time, before he finally flung himself awake covered in sweat.
But now at least for a few moments, he could remain standing. For the Judge had just entered the room. The few witnesses and staff also remained standing while the Judge took his seat and arranged his papers. He eyed the prisoner as one would a questionable stain outside the late-night Burger King.
"Gerald 'Jerry' Archibald Laden, you stand convicted of tax fraud and contempt of Court. This Court has extended to you ample time to correct your failure. This was done despite the current political climate due to the food shortages afflicting the citizens of this land. Yet you have seen fit to ignore this generosity, and compound your offenses. This will be your last chance to make good before sentencing. Do you have anything to say?"
"I don't know what that might be, your honor, other than to reconfess my schemes." He drew himself together and cast a brief glance at what only could be a new reporter actually taking notes for whatever media she drew pay from.
"I'd inherited an acre of land downtown from my Dad, and thought that though the land was considered unmarketable after the public housing was torn down, I'd see about fulfilling a dream. I dug up concrete chunks, broken bottles and every kind of trash imaginable. I filled the pickup truck more times than I had meals, and ran the lot down to the landfill so many times, I wore grooves in the pavement."
His eyes closed as he remembered the last few years of his life, "Then I dug more in the local supply stores for marked down fruit trees and even seeds to start them with, torn and unmarketable packages of tree spikes, and other necessities. I spent a summer piecing together lengths of garden hose I found at the dump, and slept nights on the ground to keep what little I had from being carried off."
"I couldn't pay anyone to help, and so didn't complain. But after a few years, an acre packed of every kind of fruit tree pushed their way upwards and started bearing. That first year much of the crop was lost as those who had no interest in helping with the work previously, now decided that it was only justice that they share in the harvest. They damaged many of the trees in their ignorance, and stole unripened fruit that did no one any good. So what was left went to buy chain link fencing; used, at auction, with 'some serviceability left to it'."
He half smiled as he continued, "But those trees grew and soon the proceeds of the crop allowed me to hire several kids who actually wanted to work for honest money. We planned more, and dreamed big. I'd have time for a social life later. Inevitably the local grocery stores noticed the falloff in sales of their waxed and gleaming fruit, and surmised that inferior stuff that merely tasted better and was cheaper... was coming from somewhere, and constituted a threat.
"Meetings were held in re-election offices. Our workers, not yet freshmen in high school, were 'exposed/discovered'. There would have to be FICA and MEDICARE withheld from their wages. And for every dollar withheld I had to pay in another to match it. Federal, State and City Withholding had to be paid. Workman's Compensation bled us white and State Unemployment Taxes elbowed their way in. Not to be outdone, the Federal Employment tax boys made their demands known." At the end of each year, what appeared at first to be telephone books for all of Ohio's cities, were found instead to be stacks of tax returns- required to be filled out and returned under pain of... pain.
"Other forms had to be filed with Family Services declaring and verifying that these two young men weren't in arrears with any child support payments they owed, and that no outstanding judgements were unpaid in any spousal abuse cases. We solemnly complied with assuring several other agencies that neither of these children, during their work hours after school between 4:30 and 6:00 o'clock, were exposed to tobacco products, religious indoctrination, intolerance of any kind, painted toys, excessive television exposure, firearms training, and/or conservative pressures."
He snorted, "Then the Sales tax people, whom we had paid religiously, decided that one form wasn't enough. We now had to determine where the benefit of each piece of fruit would be realized. This meant that anyone passing through from another County, who bought an apple from us, had to have separate Sales Tax apportioned to that County, and the same for any State outside Ohio, on the off chance that the fruit would be consumed there." He gestured with the impossibility of it all, "One monthly Sales Tax return, became the mandatory filing of nearly a hundred such returns."
"Fruit inspectors came in to check each piece of produce, and mandate precisely what insecticides were allowed so as not to damage the environment. Their efforts had to be paid for. Guess who pays? When I pointed out that we had started with a declared 'Brownfield' to begin with before we cleaned it all up, I became designated as a 'non-cooperative grower'."
"Our parking lot, all two cars worth, did not comply with the handicapped access rules, so that paraplegics could not come in to pick their own. It made no difference that no-one was allowed to pick their own. Since we had improved the original lot, we were no longer grandfathered in."
"The extra produce that we couldn't sell could no longer be contributed to the church for re-distribution to the poor. Something about 'imputed' value, and 'undeclared transactions'. Trees that had flourished for years suddenly had no inspection certificates, and young men, working a few hours before band practice, had no certification of training, and therefore could not handle anything foodstuff related. They were advised instead to get a job at our local grocery stores... bagging produce."
"Finally the last few dollars sat on the one rickety table in the frail shack that served on site as my home, as we watched the City workers cut down and shred the last of the fruit trees we had sweated to protect and grow. Apparently no insecticide was labeled as 'approved for use against root borers and union laborers'. The threat was contained. My young co-conspirators had received their first lesson in insurrectional agriculture containment. They went on to band practice with moistened eyes. Their outlaw days were now over."
He shrugged and rudely sat down in the hard wooden chair. "And so, fruit has lately tripled in price locally, due to the 'shortages' brought on by immoderately cold weather in the west. Corn consumption for renewable energy has more than doubled the price, and various other management initiatives have saved us all from unapproved 'wildcat' production."
As the judge was raising his gavel, the young man finished. "And so, yes, I took that last remaining money on the table and divided it between the two kids who had helped me build it all. I knew that it would therefore leave me unable to pay the assessed costs for removing and mulching my fruit trees from the scene of the crime, but- you know? I just didn't care. Do your worst. What more can you take from me?"
The crash of the gavel echoed around the room. "Young man, I think it's time for some re-education."
Excellent! Thank you.
Quite good Ron! Quite good!
All too good.
Bureaucrats are like Muslims - to know them is to loath them.
Did you werite that? It’s pretty amazing
Email it around, i bet it goes VIRAL
Make sure it still has the free republic link (we need more people here)
I concur with everyone else. Excellent piece....
because it’s true.
Fiction is a lie that tells the truth.
Very good litany of egregious injustices, perhaps a tad exaggerated.
I particularly identified with taking something of no value and creating a wellspring of value, then witness the punishing effects of a social backlash for surprising the community with something unexpected, especially if starts a trend that continues the ‘disruption’.
One thing I did learn was that a pre-operation campaign of public lobbying is necessary to avoid and minimize the potential social repercussions of a venture. It’s always good to bow before the neighbors and the local authorities in humble humility and ask permission. It can be difficult to bow but it usually pays off, and certain people can be hired who are exceedingly charming and talented in getting the necessary nods of approval. To be really smart about it, one should first find a friend who knows the local personalities, then plan the lobbying accordingly.
The world can be cruel but if we are smart and humble, we can win.
By the way, a lot of the government injustice and intrusion that you describe can be removed under enactment of the legislation referred to in the following link:
I appreciate the thought, but far more important stuff is going on right now. I just thought a brief pause into allegoryland would help a bit. Those who commented brightened my day. Thanks.
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