Running From The Taxman, A Great American Road Trip, begins with an array of letters full of pleas and excuses from a fictional character, Simon Shenbetter, to the IRS. Having not paid his taxes for many years and realizing that he is doomed, Simon hits the road with the little cash he has loaded to a debit card. His road trip is chronicled in frequent emails to his new girlfriend, Maggie, with whom he shares his quest to find humanity in the tax code, along with his vision of the American Dream, and as an added bonus the ideals of characters he meets along the way.
An excerpt from the book:
May 20, 2013
We drove into the late night listening to tunes from Jim Croce, Cat Stevens, and Elton John. I especially like Elton’s performance of “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” from his 1972 Honky Châteaualbum, asking for it to be played a half a dozen times over, to which my hosts obliged. Fortuna just chilled on the music, saying nothing about the near philosophical encounter with The Blessed Christian. Apollo was silent the entire time. He looked to be deep in meditative thought. He let me in on his love for driving once, something he grew to appreciate while spending ten hours a day driving the tractor on his father’s farm during the summer. “I just let the road rush through my mind and make its way right through my thoughts, man. It’s a totally cleansing experience.”
He pulled the bus into a diner at around midnight. It took every bit of his frame wrapped around the wheel to crank the bus, even with the sorry excuse for power steering fully functional according to its design, left into a parking space. The bus fit perfectly. Apollo and Fortuna disappeared into the back bedroom, the room they call their “love nest,” and the bus fell silent.
This morning I woke to see my three favorite Winnebagos parked in a circle along with one of the two SUV’s driven by the Chinese mobsters who I last saw chasing after the Tackey clan a few days back. I was surprised to see the clan going about their business, setting up chairs and unfolding the awnings. They were even rolling out the barbecue. I took steps toward them just as Graham and Joe Stanszibilli, along with Gerald Bollingsson, pulled up in the other Chinese mobster SUV and slipped into Graham’s brown and tan Winnebago. Being acute to the law as result of my membership in the Young Citizens Law Enforcement Club, Chapter 243, I could tell that the Tackey Clan men were up to something, presumably involving the safety of their family, revenge, and silencing some Chinese mobsters.
I greeted Mildred, who was standing under an awning powdering her face with the same blend of Eternally Delightsome blush all the Tackey women wear. “Good morning, Mildred,” I said to her. She was leaned over in front of a small table sporting a makeup box with a mirror on the inside lid. She seemed lost in what she was doing, so I just headed over to the showers. Her eyes had briefly acknowledged me, but she had not offered a word from her “white glow” adorned lips. As it so happens with that family, when any of the Tackeys don’t want to make small talk, well, they just don’t. It does not matter how much you think you know them. If you are not blood, they may not have anything to say to you. They can be the best of friends in one moment and the most distant of strangers the next.
After a bitterly cold shower, brought on by not the lack of hot water in the bathroom but the lack of a hot water knob in my stall, and a brisk shaking of my towel and clothes to rid them of ants, I made my way to the diner. It would not be too presumptive of me to assume that WB had been in that very spot recently. You already know about the syrup trick. His fondness for hot and cold knobs, never a matching set, was also easy to ascertain within the first few moments of riding in his van, where they are scattered like fools gold nuggets in a miners pan. My struggle thankfully behind me, I rewarded myself by relaxing in a spacious booth at the diner and began scanning through the morning headlines on my tablet. I quickly stumbled on a story of a small group of Chinese men who were found bound and gagged in the back of a semi truck on its way to Mexico. Authorities claimed the Chinese were part of a spy cell attempting to infiltrate the farming communities of Middle America, poisoning the feed of livestock. They found letterheads and copies of inventory reports from the Haversorth Feed Store outside of Indianapolis. It would not be too presumptive of me to deduce that the Haversorths had a part in doctoring up the false but authentic—and incriminating, I might add—papers.
The authorities were unable to determine how the Chinese met their fate as kidnapping victims. The spies were being deported to China immediately. It was an act of patriotism that the members of the Southern California Spy Society, and members of the Young Citizens Law Enforcement Club, Chapter 243, would be proud of.
In an unrelated incident, a notorious Chinese gang leader, Lin Yo, was found drowned in a vat of skin foundation at his recently acquired beauty products factory, formally known as CelestialPrincess.com but renamed Yo Skin Products China, LLC.
After breakfast I hooked up with Al Tackey, who seemed much more at ease than at any time since I have known him. He assured me that EternallyDelightsome.com was on schedule to begin manufacturing soon and that they may be doing so in the old CelestialPrincess.com factory, as it had gone up for sale this morning. “We’re headed north to Chicago,” he said. Then he asked, “Do you want an SUV? I have two here to choose from.” I thanked him for his offer, but had to decline, explaining that I enjoy the synergy among my new traveling companions. Then I thanked him for the invitation to come along with his family, confiding that my heart belonged in the West with you. We exchanged phone numbers and he made me promise to call within a month to establish a distributor channel.
The Tackey clan threw a party later in the day that ran past midnight. It was really elaborate for a roadside camp shindig. They had little Christmas lights strung around all the awnings and two ceiling fans under each, running slow to keep the staleness away. There was a good selection of Burt Bacharach and Andy Williams crooning from the speakers dangling outside Frank and Mabel Penowski’s peach and cream Winnebago. The clan had a plastic pool set up in the middle of the circle formed by the three encircled Winnebagos. The pool had rose petals floating around three Pink Flamingos. There were three Kool-Aid fountains, one with cherry blue punch, one with peach, and one spouting clear bubbly. They were a hit with the kids. All the men in the family wore matching pale blue polyester dinner jackets. The family members all gathered around so that Al Tackey could give a speech. I sat down next to a Kool-Aid fountain and found myself flanked by two of the younger clan members, Doreen Penowski and Shirley Bollingsson. “Grandfather likes to address us at every party,” said Doreen. “He likes to remind us that we all have to stick together,” she went on. Shirley added, “my mommy dyed my hair blonde. I don’t want it blonde. I like dark hair.” “Blonde is close to white, Shirley,” whispered Doreen. Then she reminded her younger cousin, “white is a sign of purity.” Al got up and buttoned his dinner jacket.
“We are gathered here tonight to celebrate our travels and pending return home. Circumstances have arisen that have enabled us to go back to our roots, to where Celestial Princesses were made and were Eternally Delightsome will be born. From our humble new beginnings we will paint beauty on every woman with an open heart and an open mind. Skin is our canvas. We delight in white. We paint in light. We offer light to the women of the world. Soon that light will once again be distributed from our base in Chicago and out to the world. We will be successful beyond our wildest dreams. I know this because our family is glued together through love, skin foundation, and blush. We are a family, and we are a team.”
Apollo and Fortuna showed up. They stayed away from the ribs but really dug into the salads and dessert. Celeste Stanszibilli was polite enough to move from her table and sit down next to Fortuna. She complimented Fortuna on her floral print peace blouse and turquoise earrings. “None of the women in our family like to take chances with their wardrobes,” she confided. “I’m stuck with these polyester muumuus, but as soon as we get back to Chicago I’m going to get some real clothes.” She looked away just a little, toward the northeast. It seemed she could see the boutiques right out in front of her, almost within her reach.
As a treat, eight truffles in a fake crystal plastic dish were placed at each table of eight guests. I saw Apollo and Fortuna sitting by themselves for a little bit. When the other guests came back to their table Apollo and Fortuna had left. Right in the middle of Andy Williams singing the Hawaiian Wedding Song I heard someone exclaim loudly, “Hey, who ate all the truffles?”
Will write more tomorrow.