Exchanging ephemera

The porch is brimming with sundry and yet un-potted plants: crimson-tinged sedges; black fringe-flower trees; and silver germanders coiled about themselves, their insignificant purple blossoms play-acting as bees in a hive of branches.

 I ‘bought’ these plants, which—immediately—is a mis-speak.  In actuality: I earned a $500 gift card to Lowe’s for good service at work.  The card was magnetized in such a fashion that suddenly I had purchasing power to the tune of half a K.  With the heavy clunk of Mexican pottery and galvanized tools on the check-out counter—(there also being a random lamp, some picture frames, coils of hose and a gallon of peanut oil for frying)—you would think concrete exchange was necessary, the act of buying not an ‘act’ perse, but rather an action.  Something akin to opening a billfold and presenting splendor-monies, or else negotiating a trade: “I’ll trade you this hydrangea for a shoeshine.  I’ll bake you a cake, as well.  Chocolate, maybe.”  But no.

 I secured my bounty at Check-Out #2, personed by a girl most likely three calendar-days post-highschool: a Breeanna with a tricky spelling I can’t exactly reproduce, someone who just happened to have the same Alvy Singer glasses as me.  I suggest something abstract: ‘Can I buy gift-cards with a gift-card?’ I raise an eyebrow, even. (Amazon cards would be much more useful to me).  I’m almost conspiratorial because the ludicrousness of meta-finance is suddenly a game to me and, even as I’m half-hidden behind a row of yet-to-be paid for bulrushes, the girl decides ‘no’ in tenet with store policy; I’m instantly disappointed in her tattoo which figuratively drips anarchic blood just south of her short sleeve.

 ‘Alright, then.  I’ll just get the plants.’  Kids these days.

 A week later, and my wife and I are in a tax preparer’s office with sheafs of paper, documents heiroglyphed with numbers and red lines; we’re trying to make sense of an audit that threatens us with 2K worth of penalty for mistakes made on ‘09 documents.  We’re just shy of the statute of limitations.

 (On the drive to the tax advisor’s office, a story surfaces on NPR: hacktavist Jeremy Hammond is sentenced to ten years by a federal court.  He is guilty for exposing informations on tax malfeasance and corporate misconduct—information he discovered illegally, sure—but information that discredits Dow and Coca-Cola as parties morally dubious in a world clogged and conundrummed with ephemeral information, numbers and meta-numbers, dupes and duplicity).

 I sit in a chair in the tax-advisor’s office, most likely slouched, because all the mistakes on the ’09 documents are in my handwriting (my fault basically) and I look around the room embarrassed —and when I’m not locking eyes with the nineteen year-old office cat—I’m remarking the décor which is essentially Coca-Cola keepsakes on display, red and white, emblematic but kitsch.  The taxman remarks a number of mistakes on our tax forms and in his repetition of my failed math and in the constant flash of his professionally-veiled smirk, I think: ‘Do taxmen at parties say: this one client of mine—he actually came up with a negative on line 37!!’ 

 ‘Kids these days!’ <clinking of glasses, and hearty laughter>

 There is a backwards logarithm that the advisor–smart and clean and handsome,–utilizes when comparing my numbers to the ones forwarded by the IRS auditors.  He sits in-between two oversized monitors and there is the at once soothing but discomfiting clack of a counting machine.  He raises an eyebrow at one of my mistakes, and then finds one made by the IRS.

 Fed, State, me and my fuck-ups: it’s a volley of numbers and as the mosaic of tax forms becomes more and more complicated, the taxman actually minimizes the complication to a single mail-out form which godspeed, shall find its way to the tax-advisory board, post-haste and certified. The exercise seems less handiwork on the taxman’s part, than a graduated and polished rote.  He is good. 

 We stand to leave and—still—I’m finding new and interesting Coca-Cola things to look at.  (Hammond, jailed, crosses my mind briefly).  Between monitors, audits, and facsimiles, I remain confounded: we’ve exchanged ephemera today, illusory numbers, and I’m insecure knowing that the Treasury creates money from thin air, in unremarkable rooms littered with Snickers wrappers, digital alchemy done with a touch of a button.  It’s all confusing and rather cirrus in nature.   

Meanwhile, the plants sit on the porch concretely and in need of water.  They busy themselves making rather something out of nothing.  The fringe-flower has already taken to blossom, even.


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