April 15 loomed around the corner. Carl
turned to me and said, “Get our cancelled checks together. We have to square
away with the Internal Revenue. How many deductible kids we got?—”
“Gary. He got
married last summer, so he’s not technically ours anymore.”
calculated. “Wish we had ten.”
He went down
to the next line. “Medical bills?—”
insurance—” I suggested Dr. Austin.
count,” Carl replied. “He’s the vet.”
spent more on the pets than we did on the kids.”
Next on the
form—donations: “Did we give 10% to the church?” he asked.
enough to pay for all our blessings. Maybe we could add a little zero at the
revenuers will frown on that. Anybody blind?—”
“No, but I think
you could use a hearing aid,” I said.
“Let’s not get
personal. Could we claim your mother? She’s over 65 and widowed.”
“Let’s go for
doubles and claim your dad, too. He’s 80.”
thing,” Carl mused, “neither one is blind, but they're both deaf. Why is there
no tax exemption for deafness? Hmmm…let’s see. What can we come up in the
category of “other”?”
clothes?” I asked.
“Only if they’re
a requirement of the job—”
requires it,” I said. “My customers would faint if I appeared naked.”
“It must be a
uniform, like a nurse or police outfit.”
“Scratch clothes—how about your safety
boots?” I pulled straws.
“We tried that
last year. They disallowed it if the boots were also used for hunting.”
I lost a dozen last year $50 each.”
Were they monogrammed?”
deep in concentration. “Be quiet. Don’t disrupt my thinking.”
“Food?—” I suggested.
deductible. Hey, I’ve got it! Sales tax!
We bought a car. There’s a lot of tax on a new car. Can you find the bill of
“How’d it get
“I filed it
where I could put my hands on it when we needed it and the only major appliance
in this house that no one can move is the refrigerator. Come help me.”
fridge wasn’t easy, but we managed. After a few hours of mathematical juggling,
I ventured to ask, “How does it look?”
groans from the principal bread winner in the family. “Terrible! I hate to pay
Uncle Sam. Ridiculous the way the government throws away our money. All those
politicians eating at the public trough, living high off the hog…”
The writing on
the check is smeared and squiggly. It’s hard to watch a grown man cry.
(Nowadays my bank mails no monthly statement, sends no
My tax accountant files my return
electronically. The only thing that hasn’t changed in all these years is that I
still must pay.)
My late husband, Carl, had a minor
investment in a registered bird dog he’d bought from a breeder and trainer near
Belzoni, Mississippi. It turned out “Tammy” didn’t come up to sniff. She
flushed birds. As previously agreed, Carl returned Tammy to Mr. Hill, who
promised to resell the pointer and refund the money.
After six weeks or so, we drove to
Mr. Hill’s old farmhouse to check on the progress of the sale. A thin, wiry,
elderly gentleman came down the rickety steps. “Howdy,” he said, right away
recognizing an unsatisfied customer. “If you come to see about Tammy, she’s all
right. I ain’t sold her yet, but by durn I sure hate to part with that dog,
she’s the best dog I ever seen. There ain’t too many people wanna buy an
expensive dog like that, but I’m telling you I’m a-trying, even if it breaks my
heart to part with Tammy again. I took her out yesterday. I never hunt any dog
but her, you know I raised her from a pup, best dog I ever had, I hated to part
with her. If you hadn’t come around here when my pocket was empty I can assure
you, you’d never gotten that good dog off of me. I took her out for a run, and
sure enough, I lost her, just like you said you did, and I thought, well, maybe
she’s hunting a mite too wide, and I looked for that durn dog an hour, then I
came out on the road over yonder, and saw a car easing along, and I thought, by
golly, them people done picked up Tammy and stole the best dog I ever had. So I
walked on down to the store, and sure enough, that black car done stopped there
People boughtfive dollars
worth of gas and two Moon pies, but the boy said they ain’t had my Tammy with
’em. So I stopped over by that trailer,” he pointed in the direction of the
gravel road running away from the house, “and asked them folks had they seen
Tammy and they said no and this worried me some more.
“I come on back to the house and had
the old lady fix me lunch, took me a little nap, then got up and took them two
setters there out for a run, see if maybe they’d scare up a scent or something.
I’m trying my durnest to train them setters for a man, but they just ain’t got
it, they like to flush birds and play around, they ain’t at all like my Tammy,
best dog I ever did see.
“Well, me and them setters went
across the field, past the creek bottom and into those woods over yonder.” Mr. Hill spat tobacco juice and pointed to the
horizon where the sun streaked gold through the pine thicket. “And directly a
bird flies past me, but by the time I get my bearings and my gun up—“ he lifted
an imaginary gun to his shoulder, cocked it, and squinted a sharp eye down the
imaginary barrel— “the doggone bird is plumb outta my range. I can hear them
setters barking and raisin’ Cain, so I hurries across and into the woods and
good lord almighty, there is Tammy. That dog been holding that point
twenty-four hours.” Mr. Hill looked down at the ground. His scruffy cowboy boot
raked dirt into a little dusty hill. “You sure you won’t reconsider keeping her?”
Invited for high tea at Windsor Court when the tea room re-opened
after Katrina, a pianist entertained the visitors. A tall fellow wearing a gray
suit came in and tapped the pianist on the shoulder. She moved over and he sat
down next to her and they played four-handed, three-handed and two-handed for
almost an hour. The music filled the room. The performers chuckled and hit the
keys, rhythm and blues, jazz, ballads, having a grand old time. They brought
joy and hope and an assurance that in New
Orleans, no matter what, you couldn't kill the music. It
was a magic moment. I asked our server who they were. I can’t remember the woman’s name. The man
was staying at the hotel until his house was livable again. Who was he? Allen
Toussaint! God bless his soul.
Do you have a magic moment?
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I have eliminated my culinary disasters by moving my kitchen
two blocks away from my house, inconvenient if it’s raining or storming, but
quite adequate most times. The garden club ladies have breakfast there, as does
my friend Syd, and the retired gents who used to run city hall, the school
board, the civic organizations and now just talk about it. The waitresses are
friendly and quick. They slap down coffee on the table before you sit. Chef
Russell serves a mean Blue Plate Special and its okay with him for old folks to
order a child’s plate. His lasagna and Chef’s salad are legendary. I wish he’d
make stuffed peppers more often, but I take what I can get since the big plus
is I don’t have to wash dishes and there’s no danger that I’ll catch the place
on fire, as I've done in my kitchen more times than I dare to recall. In my next life, I am going to be a superb
cook. Believe me, deep down, I know without doubt: if you cook it, they will
I reckon by now everybody knows whom
they'll vote for. We are sick of the ads on TV where each candidate is knifing
the other, and if we believe any of it, nobody is fit for public office. Be
that as it may, we have to pick a winner. Eeenie, meenie, minie, moe. Good
I consider myself a person of average
intelligence, and I must confess, the amendments always throw me for a loop.
They can't be written in plain English that everyone can understand. They're
such gobbly-gook that the majority will vote "no" simply because we
have no idea what a "yes" vote will bring. For instance:
AMENDMENT #1. Creates a new transportation projects fund. What's
the matter with the old fund? The yellow barrels between Hammond
and Baton Rouge
remain in place year after year. The potholes in New Orleans streets can swallow a small car.
Instead of new transportation projects fund, why don't we finish up the old
transportation projects? Will the new projects suffer the unfinished state of
the old projects?
This amendment also "restructures" the Rainy Day Fund, a
reserve fund crucial in credit-rating agencies’ view of the state's financial
health. I'm leery of "restructuring," sounds a lot like robbing
Peter to float Paul. As I understand, after reading through PARS 17-PAGE guide
to FOUR amendments, the Budget Stabilization Fund will be split in two: the
Rainy Day Fund and the new Transportation Fund.
AMENDMENT 2: Allows the state treasurer the option of creating a
new infrastructure bank. I didn’t have time to delve into the difference
between an infrastructure bank and a regular bank, but have y'all counted how
many banks we have in Hammond
already? Why exactly does the state need another one? Can't they deposit the
money in an existing facility? Beats me.
3: Allows the legislature to deal with taxes in all sessions, not just the
“fiscal sessions.” Why can’t they just tell us that? Unless a person sits down and
researches all this stuff before hand (and it takes a Philadelphia lawyer to
decipher what the deuce they’re talking about) the average dude is going to
vote “no,” thinking we have enough trouble when the legislators mess with the
taxes once a year. Seems like the once-a-year restraint has those fellows
chomping at the bit.
4: Requires state and local governments
outside of Louisiana to pay taxes on property
they own in Louisiana.
That seems to be the most sensible of all the amendments, although after you
read the 5-page explanation you are as confused as ever. It delves into Tennessee storing natural gas in Louisiana, etc. etc. If the Chinese
government owns an oil well in Louisiana
waters shouldn’t they pay the taxes? You bet they should. I’m all for that.
are my opinions and nobody else’s. I already voted absentee, but for those
who’ll be standing in line Saturday, GOOD LUCK.
I was telling my young friend Megan
about Saturday’s wonderful Book Festival at the Hammond Library. There were
hundreds of people milling about, talking to authors, stopping at booths, and eating
“Really?” Megan replied. “Nobody
goes to the library anymore.”
“That’s not so. There were lots of
“Most everybody gets their books on
Kindle or downloads them from someplace.”
“Now you can download books from
the library,” I said. That’s one of the new innovations put in by Barry Bradford,
Director, who has done an amazing job, bringing the library into the 21st
century. “Do you ever read the classics?”
“Oh, sure. Harry Potter.”
“Who is he?”
I recall my father telling my
sister and me on more than one occasion: “If you have the company of a good
book, you will never be lonely.”
“So, if you don’t read, how do
young people entertain themselves?” I asked.
“We have our tablets and our
phones. We can read books, play games, send messages, talk to friends.”
I have to have a book. I like turning
the pages, feeling the texture of the paper, dog-earing one corner, underlining
a particularly beautiful passage. I like placing favorites in my bookshelves
where I can take them down and read them again and again. When I moved from the
big country house to the little house in town, I made a conscious decision that
since my new space was limited every fifth book had to go, so I donated them. Two
days later I was back, retrieving a few that I was crazy to let go.
At a recent book club, a
white-haired member looked through her eye glasses, turned up her hearing aid
and asked me where she could get a copy of my latest book, Pohainake Parish.
“It’s at bookstores and libraries,”
“Oh, honey, I’d have to get in the
car and drive to those places. Can I download it from Kindle or Nook?”
“Absolutely,” I replied, thinking
libraries have to cope with this new development and the competition is stiff,
and even the old people are getting into it.
But for me, who still lives in the
dark ages, there’s no substitute. I love the library.
For information on events at the library click here.