“…nothing in this world can be said to be certain except death and taxes.” When I look up the origin of this quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin, I learn that he was talking about the apparent permanence of our Constitution and that he was not the first to couple those two inevitabilities, but not my point.

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I enter H & R Block for the first time. I have decided to go with a certified preparer rather than use the AARP free-help-for-seniors because of some transactions last year that complicate a usually simple process for our married-filing-jointly return. This office comes well-recommended, so I make the call.

I am recovering from a cold, day six to be precise, but it’s been a full-blown one shared with me by the generous students I teach at the middle school. No sooner had one teen succumbed than another followed. I had resisted, but in my fourth week of full-time subbing in an eighth grade health class—the irony is not lost on me—I, too, surrender. I even take my final Friday off, so sick am I and with all the Covid-19 fears….

It’s Wednesday now, and despite the constant need to clear congestion—tissues, tissues, tissues—I am no longer “sick.” I am embarrassed though and several times have excused myself from the preparer’s cubicle to blow my nose. My third exit to do exactly that, I look up and across the room to the scheduling area. A woman is standing in front of the counter, gray-haired and bespectacled, clutching a folder and her purse. She has turned away from the receptionist and is glaring, and I know glaring because I teach middle school, straight at me.

I finish blowing my nose giving her an unobstructed tissue-free look at my face, and smile. She turns away; her stiff-backed solemnity says it all. I know what she’s thinking, or think I do. Actually with all the concern about this “novel virus,” I feel a bit guilty for taking this cold remnant that sounds so much worse than it is out into the world. I want to plead, “Hey, lady, no cough, no fever, no corona here. It’s just a garden-variety cold.”

And after all —TAXES….But I get it: she’s thinking death!

6 thoughts on “Taxing”

  1. I love how you open with Death and taxes and circle around to it again at the end. Nicely done!

    As a middle school teacher, I was wishing you walked over to her and extended your hand for a handshake.

  2. That is so funny, I keep wondering if I got a cold now, what people would think, now I know!! My goodness, so many slices seem to be to do with that word, I am not even going to grace it with a mention…loved the form of your slice with death and taxes as the intro and conclusion, so clever!

  3. It’s getting so that coughing or sneezing in public is fraught with potential danger. I like how your teacher self recognizes the glare of the woman – you know exactly what she means with that look. I agree with the others that your reference to death and taxes at the beginning and end is clever.

  4. You masterfully weaved you’re opening quote through to the end. It might be that woman is spreading coronavirus and doesn’t even know it. I’m certain existing rather than going about the business of living is more deadly than most illnesses.

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