The Nothing, and the No One
by Jackson Lamme
This short story/essay was named after references from “The Neverending Story”, in which Atreyu is tasked with saving the Childlike Empress from the Nothing, and saving fantasia.
The CEO of the IRS gazes out the window over his dominion as the muted ringing of unanswered phone calls buzz in the atmosphere like mosquitoes. “I wonder if they'd give me a blue checkmark on Twitter?” he mused to himself, contemplating his next power moves which obviously would end in the Presidency, if not higher. As the last snow of March melted away into april, and the lion turned into the lamb, he too was transforming..
Back in 2011 I had a tax return stolen out of my mailbox. The IRS told me it was cashed at this downtown check cashing business. It’s required by law that the cashier scan a copy of any cashed check, and I was able to see that a lady signed it over to herself, including her “name” (Valencia Wilson). Let’s just say this place wasn’t the Oak Hills Country Club and I wasn't the PGA Championship. The bullet proof glass encased employees transmitted garbled audio signals through a useless metal plate as I glanced around at the security guard, the 12 security cameras, and roving heards of gang affiliated youths flashing knotted fingers at each other and flagging down cars. I couldn’t look at the tapes, because that would be impossible.
The IRS did refund my check but since someone committed grand larceny against me I wanted to be in the loop, but they are exempt from the basic constitutional guarantee of “access to justice” and instead advised me that the investigation would be top secret and I would never know anything: I was prohibited from doing anything or knowing anything. Ever.
For an organization too busy to answer the phone 70% of the time I can imagine they really rolled up their sleeves and peeled out of the IRS headquarters in hot pursuit.
Now I need an “identity protection pin” every time I file my taxes, which they send each year via paper mail but the only problem is I've lived in 2 countries, 5 states, and had 14 addresses since 2011 which can complicate things. The 3rd party contractor verifying identities to reissue the pin advised me to get a bank statement, a bill or a pay stub with my full SS number on it. What company puts your FULL SS on a bill or paystub? I went to the bank to ask and they all erupted in laughter, slowly closed in on me, and tossed me into the street. Then I went to AT&T, whereupon silence fell over the lobby. The customers exchanged hushed glances, nodding in agreement and beckoning towards the cashier who began reaching for something behind the counter and I bolted. I arrived back at the barracks shortly after to sit on my front steps and stare despondently at the sidewalk until passersby’s attempted to escort me to seek help.
They then want me to use an app to photograph my face but the app doesn't allow the full head to even enter the frame, they must understand that primitive neanderthals such as us “non filers” must have smaller brain cavities and thus smaller heads.
Since I’m in the military in Germany the id company requires my SS card, which they won't accept because it was understandably not printed last year! It didn’t pass the rigorous atomic forensic inspection, it was missing a single valence electron which had oxidized onto a carbon atom on my birth certificate. And in case you were wondering why every IRS agent is now issued legal ownership of their own electron microscope, it's because it’s called a living wage, you should try it sometime. They also each have a full length MRI machine to ensure the body cavities are not being used as internal tax shelters, and license plates which indicate full legal immunity. They are also working on duplicating the hubble telescope in anticipation of future extra-terrestrial tax shelters.
Before the line goes dead, you can call and hear the urgings of a voice dripping in the sarcasm developed over years of patronizing disgruntled taxpayers urge you to go online instead. She has gone through the “dealing with people” lifecycle that starts with the subject embracing the optimistic and joyful persona, then when they can no longer keep up the charade the attitude reverts to apathy. The amount of F’s given is inverse to time in service because the natural laws of thermodynamics prove that IRS customer service reps moving through space always find the path of least resistance.
The posture often contains strong hints of potential aggression, the proverbial flashing of the teeth and claws when a potential wild card is identified such as a blank faced, tall brown haired customer staring despondently over the cubicle wall thinking he’s next in line at the DMV.
“How did you get in here, what do you want?!”
She was on edge, waiting on a hair trigger to completely loose her s%^&. That’s what's wrong with society these days, people almost want to feel in mortal danger when the threats usually pale in comparison to single handedly taking down a stampede of pissed off wooly mammoths 15,000 years ago. Back then we had no health insurance, had to fend off dinosaurs, and seek shelter from the big bang theory.
We are ready to go with that same intensity at a moment's notice, we still have the threat processor, just not the workload for it; we let our imaginations handle that.
As I wait for security to arrive I sit down and click a facebook link on the server network and find myself logged onto the main IRS command/control mainframe interface as the administrator. Man! There sure are a lot of “Joseph Willinghams” in this country! CTRL-A, CUT, REPEAT ACH TRANSACTION, SELECT ALL, FREEZE ACCOUNTS. Then a window called the “network registry editor” popped up and I started cleaning out files to save space, but I made sure to save a complete backup of the c-drive on my thumb drive that I keep on my keychain.
I managed to open up my email and since I like to be sure who I’m really dealing with I make it a habit of always clicking the link in the email to see what they're really about. Now this website doesn’t look like Amazon! -> DOWNLOAD->OPEN WHEN DONE->RUN->INSTALL->I AGREE man it’s like a reflex at this point I don’t even think about it! Look at that amazon does screen share! The tech support specialist, “Z-VODKABOI_666” can even directly connect into our network after I sign over Admin rights!
I didn't have much time to scope it out because a system dump was initiated and the fire alarm went off; apparently there was smoke coming out of the 2 acre server center down the hall. Man these guys just can’t get it together!
Anyways, they were obviously grumpy to begin with because they pulled out all the stops and got Homeland Security, the FBI, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the Secret Service to make me the scapegoat for their own ineptitude. These guys looking like astronauts got out of an armoured car and were trying to harass me with their remote control robot.
This guy brought me to a room and said he bought me a ticket to a camp in cuba, and I would be playing with something called a “waterboard”. The only waterboarding I’ll be doing in cuba is duct taping together a couple wooden pallets and waterboarding my ass back to America!
These guys are bipolar. I do not recommend trying to have a rational conversation with them. Apparently Steve, my daytime caretaker, put out an Amber alert when he found the open window I escaped from and my life alert necklace on my bedside table. He was contacted by the terrorist negotiater and the SWAT team to clear things up.
I was ticked off at this point! You ever seen the fighting? Irish I can do that! I shuffled back and forth before the room turned upside down and the lights went black. I drifted away to Nevada, preparing to meet an acquaintance at the tavern in the wild wild west.
The scene opens with a brambly spherical looking weed thing tumbling across the dusty road, with, “The good, the bad, and the ugly” soundtrack playing. Your leather boots crunch on the road outside the tavern, hands hovering above the 6 shooter as you carefully survey your surroundings.. Then I emerge in the street shuffling onwards, as I stare despondently right through you and seem to lose control of my legs as they quiver and buckle, my mouth ajar and my eyes glazed over as my mind fails to participate in the outside world and is instead aware only of a constant buzzing.
As I approach the tavern I recognize a verbal communication indicating that you actually made the acquaintance of my mother.. small world! I recognize your scowly jowley that reminds me of when paw used to take a break from boxing with maw and have me continue work on the 3 holes in the back woods that he said he was going to turn into a garden one day when we were least expecting it. I’m now vaguely aware of your silhouette about 20 paces yonder but I left my 6 shooter on my horse who’s all the way over in Tombstone getting a tune up, and I thought you invited me to be part of a du-et, not a dual-to- the-death. I had two juice boxes and a pair of friendship bracelets which I quickly reached for in my leg flaps.
Tell me, do you feel lucky?
The next morning I awoke with an ankle bracelet on and a packet of information signed by my power of attorney notifying me of the several government watch lists I was now on, an order of protection from 6 IRS employees, the list of federal buildings I was now barred from, and a receipt for the electronics seized by the FBI. I filed them away with the cease and desist order from the court for posting pictures on instagram of the neighbors daughter that I like to snap from attic window. Yall are wayyyy too sensitive I’m just sayin! All that paperwork and still nothing about my taxes.. Maybe I’ll go down there today and try to sort it all out.
So here I am now a fugitive from the law, having evaded paying my taxes. I’m liable to go under investigation with the mustachioed, bespectacled executors of justice sending out a notice on the same letterhead as a Roman imperial ultimatum, before seizing the rest of my assets and salting the backyard of my Army barracks.
Sometimes I sit and stare forlornly out my window, the drizzling pitter-patter of the rain from the cold gray clouds echoing my hopelessness, while the fortunate ones walk by under a gleaming rainbow, their faces shining with righteous indignation as the shrill cackle of mocking laughter fills the air like so many knives. How I wish I could feel, just for a moment that tranquility; the satisfaction of knowing the IRS is smiling warmly down from Mount Olympus, sucking the fat of the land into their ravenous, heaving gullet, the earth buckling under the weight of it’s megalithic cache, as the lumbering giant leans down and gently reminds me:
“the IRS is one of the only 2 things we are guaranteed in this life: never forget to Live, Laugh, Pay taxes, and then die”.
The 5 trainloads of hundred dollar bills and hastily melted down wedding rings and family heirlooms will be digested by the political machine and transported throughout the nations financial estuaries. I studied economics in college so I can personally attest to the existence of this lumbering behemoth; in his native money feasting state he looks like the Rock Eater from the Neverending Story.
First the currency is watered down with government debt because $4 trillion is obviously just a petty cash fund compared with the $28 trillion in debt, and they even sweetened the pot and got the Federal Reserve to kick in an extra $9 trillion in arbitrarily purchased: 1. Treasury bonds 2. mortgage backed securities 3. Corporate bonds (which only amounts to about $13 billion dollars which is .015% of the feds current balance sheet.)
- Buying government treasuries from the bank is profiting the bank because treasuries pay so little interest, vs cash which can be dolled out in the form of credit cards and 15% subprime mortgage loans. Fed treasury purchases also lowers interest rates for consumers because more loans are available, like the more peaches you have, the cheaper they'll be.
The fed chooses very low volatility, low interest, highly consistent assets to repeatedly over and under value by buying and selling to influence the money supply and interest rates; holders of these assets usually have chunks of wealth which are not moving anytime soon and are not as easily influenced by temporary fluctuations in the supply and demand. This concept makes people wonder about why mortgage backed securities would be on the fed balance sheet into the trillions of dollars.
Given the level of national debt right now no one is under the illusion that investing your money into the US government is going to be a tangibly profitable enterprise in terms of the creation of wealth, adding to the $400 billion in interest payments on federal debt each year, (10% of the full federal tax haul) but at the end of the day the US government has all the guns, and retirees are relatively confident in getting their $25 per year in interest for every $1000 they invest.
This concept makes you wonder about the value of US Treasury bonds when inflation is 4 times the yearly interest payout.. But the US Treasury bond is the pet security for the fed to control the US money supply and over the long term the interest will usually scratch the surface of offsetting inflation.
- Mortgage backed securities: A mortgage backed security is the repackaging of mortgage debt into funds which are sold to investors who generally value more stability, depending on the rating of the instrument, although some MBS are comprised of high interest, high risk mortgages. The lenders selling these securities benefit by eliminating all risk associated with that loan because they generally will sell for cash. I assume they also make a few dollars in the contract and also collect the first interest payments on the loan which are higher than any subsequent payments.
Interesting choice for the fed to buy mortgage backed securities to increase dollars in the economy, I seem to remember a little year called 2008 when artificially inflating prices in the housing market caused a massive global panic, and the ultra rich had to grab several trillions in our tax dollars after failing to vet collateralized debt obligations and MBS’s properly, which is kind of hard to do when your Bear Sterns in 2006 buying almost 900,000 mortgages worth $146B. A large percent of these loans were underwritten by lenders approving absurd loans to people who didn't even have jobs, because the lenders were confident they could just turn around and sell the securitized bundles to Bear Sterns and get paid immediately.
The US housing market is unanimously regarded as being in an even larger bubble than in 2008, and when housing prices start collapsing it usually is a signal of recessionary conditions which mean employment will decline causing more loan defaults. Theres also the psychological effect of paying $2,200 for a $200,000 home which is now valued at $85,000.
Even though the financial sector likes to root for the price of a 2 bedroom converted train car in death vally to reach into the millions of dollars, the fact is that if there are more peach trees, yes the peach’s cant be sold for as much, but everybody gets a peach which is the smart solution from a civic perspective.
The next phase in the tax dollars lifecycle is when it passes through the large House of Representatives, each of the 24 million federal employees get a piece of the pie. It’s now broken down into smaller units within a hastily written 900 page bill which guarantees that Arkansas will get to study the detrimental effects of masculinity on the native butterfly population of the Salem Plateau. Also this dude wants to dig out 25 cubic miles underneath Boston Massachusetts and I reckon with about $15 billion we could burrow underneath the entire city and create a huge cavernous space under there.
As the behemoth lumbers onwards, having once again set in motion the wheels of human progress and morality, the CEO of the IRS wipes away the tears of joy which emanate from a deeply misplaced pride in his own work and service to mankind. Meanwhile it’s 2pm on a Tuesday but right now is HIS time, time to reflect, and He’s experiencing joy because he just hired the hottest applicant to the new paralegal position and looks forward to telling her the story about that one time when he was mistakenly issued a 22 caliber rifle during a standoff at a ranch in Texas. A known religious zealot who ran an anti government militia and cult was being raided by the IRS. They were known to practice ritual sacrifices by holding competitive baby juggling competitions over an open alligator pit, with the first place winner getting 3 weeks off wood chopping duty. And worst of all? He didn't pay all his taxes for the 1st quarter of fiscal year 1994. He was shot 198 times, because it wasn’t fair to let one guy get all the credit. He had a notch carved into his belt which was always visible.
As the sun is channeled through a small slit in the rain clouds, it forms a beam of light which looks brighter contrasted against the dark background. The soft agreeable notes of the silver plated windchimes the CEO of the IRS bought while on vacation in Europe last week is set against the ambience of the distant lawnmower cutting the blades of grass down to size. His wife peers out her second story balcony and surveys the landscape, her shrewd mental feelers unable to detect any urgent matters bring to her husband's attention. She feels safer ever since they bought that guard labro-doodle.
The dreamy tranquility is broken by the family dog bounding along the perimeter of the lush green yard, barking at the schoolbus, careful not to stray over the line into the electric fence as Lucy and Jimmy sally forth bearing tales of their various pointless foibles and charades at school.
They began excitedly emitting words, utilizing their comically icomplete language repertoires to blunder in and out of coherence, periodically losing track of their train of thought and just mindlessly blanking out until another rudimentary thought pops into their heads which they happily serve up like its the social equivalent of a char broiled fillet mignon. The CEO looks down and smiles pathetically, surrendering himself to those sharply limited standards which his 6 year old children use to discriminate between things like the expected utility of a peanut butter and jelly vs a tuna fish sandwich. In several years they will grow more hawkeyed and become mindful of small movements in fortune as they chase the evermoving goalposts of life with the rest of us.
It’s cute now for Lucy to fall so woefully short of the social and professional skill levels of adults, who compete against each other for the gold, influence, and women of the world. What if the kids developed at 20% the rate that we now expect? All the kids growing at the same rate would be blinded to their shortcomings by the relative performance of their peers. Likewise, every one of us is blind to future inventions, and scientific advancements of mankind which hide in the abyss, like statues in a marble block waiting to be uncovered..
The CEO noticed a smudge on his shoes and was thinking of maybe grabbing a towel when.. Sherly’s making dinner.. Wheres Jimmy going? I want to yell something that telegraphs my authority.. “We have things against the Smiths if they ever try to get wiley” “I issue confident and energetic yet dismissive greetings to people at work and my smile says “hello” as well as “f$$$ you””; “I thrive in the Machievlian land of realpolitik..” “Too many phone calls and tasks piling up at work I’m gonna just ignore them into the nothingness, after all it’s the taxpayers ass on the line” “We gotta audit Harry the Roofer, he’s been slingin shingles all year and he’s got himself a Ford f850 with a crane and reported only $30k on his w2”. Let’s see if you can write off this 10 year prison sentence as a “business expense”, Dirty Harry!
“How about that guy who didnt even bother sending in his taxes at all?! LMAO.. Must have been too busy working at Netflix customer service and Dominoes Pizza! I’m laughing at him right now I see his face right in my mind and he pales in comparison to me, I’m just more suave and savvy and I’m richer; I would crush him under an audit if he wants to get slick. He’s probably the type to vent on facebook about his failed relationships and unrealized hopes and dreams.
Meanwhile I’m pacing my apartment in a state of panic with energy funneling into the nerve centers and stimulating the adrenal response which is releasing cortisol adding to the stress as every fiber awaits the IRS hammer to fall.
Meanwhile the battle rages on in the Army. Against itself. With a lack of want, people really do bring struggle upon themselves.. If there's no wolves prowling I need a blanket, if I got a blanket I need a cave, if I got the cave I need your cave! Once I have that its the tribal hierarchy: day in and day out with the facepaint and the fire dance already. And I’m even hearing murmerings about Chief Running Elk wanting to erect a head chopping pyramid. Narcissistic much?
It’s funny how everything is consistent and reliable and it feels like the mind actually cant handle the stress during momentary lapses in judgment or the periodic bouts of bullying and disrespect we all endure. Our collective silence ensures that the patterns from 10,000 years ago go on undiminished even while we look down on the feeble minded past generations for their inexcusable worldviews.
I bet that IRS CEO is a real prick with his goofy gate and he probably didn't advance quite to the level of coolness that I enjoyed in highschool, where I hung out with Mike N Ike a few times after school and he we played the game where I was the blanket and he had to beat the dust out of me.. Priceless memories. Mr. IRS man probably was a pencil neck pimply thin hunched over goofy teenager like a giraffe that doesn't quite know how to handle it’s clunky legs.
“Mr. CEO, the phones aren’t being answered frequently enough, how about you go ahead and take some calls for an hour while I’m getting retweeted by former Fox News anchor Greta Van Susteran twice, having former prime Minister of Thailand Yingluck Shiniwatra like my FB story reply, and I once washed Hillary clinton's dishes and met the owner of several Wendys whose net worth was over a billion dollars? That’d be greaaaat.”
“I’ll circle back.”