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Spoofs & Satire

Don't Tread on Me, 2011, Dan Tague
Courtesy the artist and Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, New Orleans

The Pale Serfs

Accountants aren’t the only ones inspired by “Joint Strike Fighter Property Costs.” Five openings for novels inspired by California’s rather unique state tax adjustments.

FICA and Railroad Retirement Sick Pay

Old Henry took off his cap, the brim soaked already with sweat despite the early hour, and attempted to lean back against the hard wood of the bench—attempted to relax his weary bones, stretch out, and enjoy the sunrise.His first day of retirement, his first time waiting for the Southwest Limited as a civilian, but he couldn’t give up the hat. All he had to look forward to were the brown envelopes slowly paying out his pension; money he’d put towards his whole life. And what did he have to show for it? A shoebox apartment that didn’t count as a home office because he wasn’t filing a Schedule C form this year, a daughter who never called—and the one-way ticket he held in his hand. Destination: Unknown.

Reward from a Crime Hotline

What struck Sarah Lancaster from apartment nine as funny, she told the detectives at the time, is that she hadn’t known at first what she’d seen. The only violence she’d ever really seen before had been on TV and in movies; it was always safely encased behind a screen. This—the brutal punches of the mugger, the terror of the woman as she fell to the ground—was something foreign. If she’d been watching through a window, perhaps it would have seemed more real. Maybe she would have recognized it faster as reality, pulled out her cell phone a few minutes faster. She wasn’t sure whether the call counted as a personal or business expense, but figured she could log it as business and the IRS would be none the wiser.

Cost-Share Payments Received by Forest Land Owners

“I always forget how fresh air makes food taste better,” Joshua said to Anika. It was their first night in the cabin. The stars were out, the wine was chilled to perfection, their Whole Foods prepared meals (bought that afternoon before they’d gotten on the freeway) steamed on the porch’s one rickety table. Anika made a mental note to ask Josh what he thought of the Lowry project while they ate, that way she could deduct 50 percent of the grocery bill later—he had picked out a very expensive bottle of wine.

“Why exactly does your family own this land?” she asked.

“It’d cost too much to sell,” Josh mumbled, mouth full of microwaved enchiladas.

“Ah,” she said, sipping. It was a very good wine.

False Imprisonment Compensation

First thing Lamar was gonna do: Sushi. He was gonna fill up this piece of shit truck’s gas tank, find the fanciest, nicest place he could, and eat raw fish until he got that sick feeling. Then he’d order some more. With sake, served cold as ice, cold as the January nights when the rain would get in through the bars of his window. Cold sake because it was warm today—his cheap court suit itched like a motherfucker. But he’d wait to change out of it later, after he got to Bobby’s house and had the conversation they’d been needing to have for three to five with good behavior. He didn’t blame Bobby for what happened. But when you’re the one left holding your dick in front of a squad car, five stolen TVs stacked behind you, you have some words to say to the man who ditched your ass.

Lamar looked at the truck’s odometer and wrote down the mileage on the back of a receipt. This trip was definitely gonna be business.

Ottoman Turkish Empire Settlement Payment

The man didn’t care at all, Alice could see. Just another tax return, just another sad, crumpled pile of receipts, just another 50 bucks in H&R Block’s pocket.

With one eye on the annoyingly cheerful blue sky outside, she answered question after question robotically. Yes, she was single. No, she had no children. Yes, she rented. No, she wasn’t—“Armenian? Wait, what?”

He shrugged. “If you’re Armenian, and you receive compensation from the nation of Turkey because millions of your people were massacred a century ago, you don’t have to pay taxes on it.”

“Oh.”

“So are you?”

Alice gestured at her distinctly Asian features. “Do I look it?”

He looked at her for the very first time. He sighed. “Lady, you should focus.”