Disclaimer: This is an original fiction story.  Any resemblance to…um…actual people is coincidental.

Sexual Content: Without implied sexual relationships between consenting adult women, this story wouldn’t make sense at all.  If this offends you, stop reading here.

Reality Check: Sadly, the IRS stopped issuing Package X effective tax year 2005.  So for this story you need to suspend your disbelief just a tiny bit.

Acknowledgments: Thanks to Mavis and Barb of the Hearthstone Writing Group for beta reading.  Thanks to Sara, the love of my life, for everything else.

Package X

by Vicki Stevenson

Wham!  When she made her entrance, she kicked the bar door so hard that it swung all the way around and hit the wall.  We all spun on our stools and stared in disbelief at the figure silhouetted against the gray winter sky that Sunday afternoon.  In her left hand she carried a high-end leather notebook computer case.  Under her right arm were crammed three loose-leaf binders that we later found out contained the mysterious Package X (Volumes 1, 2, and 3).  It was a formidable load, but if anybody could cope with it, it looked to me like she’d be the one.

From behind the bar Dindy broke the stunned silence.  “Bobbi, maybe you should help the woman with her stuff.”

“I can handle it,” the woman said confidently as she made her way to the bar.

She was a looker.  She stood almost six feet tall, and her dark hair contrasted strikingly with her deep blue eyes.  Not exactly my type, but eye candy nevertheless.  She set the computer case and the binders on the bar and scrutinized each of us.  She took her time.  Finally she introduced herself. Her voice was calm, firm, and confident.

With only five words, she had everybody in the bar scared shitless: “I’m the Lesbian Tax Lady.”  Gesturing at her computer and binders, she added, “I have here everything necessary to complete your tax returns.  I’m giving everybody in here the lowest rate around because you’re sisters.  That way we keep our money in the community.  I’m happy, you’re happy.”

Instant headache.  “Disaster comes to the Brass Bucket,” I murmured to Bobbi.  I spoke very softly, and the Tax Lady was six stools away, but she heard me anyway.  Her words shot out of her mouth like machine gun bullets.

“Have-you-done-your-taxes-yet?” she fired at me.

Now my head was really pounding.  Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted the trace of a smile on Bobbi’s face.  She was actually enjoying this.  Some friend.  I pressed my fingertips against my temples.  My neck was suddenly stiff.  I rotated my body ninety degrees to the left and faced her.

“Well…um…I haven’t gathered all my tax stuff together yet,” I said, still pressing my fingers against my head.

“Have you received all your W-2s and 1099s?” she barked.

The woman exuded power.  Even though she was asking sort of a personal question, I felt like I had to answer her truthfully.  I started to hyperventilate.

“Well…um…everything’s there, I guess, but I haven’t had a chance to separate it from the junk mail,” I said shakily.  I hoped she would be so disgusted by my mail indolence that she’d pick on somebody else, like maybe Bobbi, who seemed to think there was something funny about all this.

The Tax Lady slid off her stool and stalked slowly toward me.  She didn’t stop until her face was only a foot away from mine.  The eye contact was killing me.  I was vaguely aware that I might look silly sitting on my stool almost nose-to-nose with this woman, her standing with her hands on her hips, me with my fingertips pressed against my temples, trembling.  After what seemed like an eternity, she spoke.  She started softly and got progressively louder as her sentence reached a chilling crescendo.

“Do you mean to tell me,” she almost whispered, obviously more repulsed than she had ever been in her life, “that you haven’t separated,” she continued, louder, “your tax papers from your junk mail?” she boomed.

“Bobbi, I think I need some help here,” said a tiny voice.  I realized the voice was mine.

“How’re you gonna print the returns?” Bobbi asked her.

Slowly she shifted her gaze to Bobbi.  I exhaled.

“When I’ve completed everybody’s return,” she said, suddenly calm, “I’ll bring in my laser printer from the car.  I’ll just plug it in somewhere, and I’ll print out all the returns at once.”

“But what if somebody wants to file electronically?” Bobbi asked.  Bobbi is borderline genius.

“Naturally, I can do that.”  She patted her leather case.  “This is an HP Pavilion dv9500t with an Intel Core2 Duo Processor and wireless Internet.  But I don’t advise filing electronically.”

“Why not?  They say it’s much more reliable,” Bobbi objected.

The Tax Lady heaved a sigh.  “Okay, now stop and think,” she said.  “Just about everybody who issues W-2s and 1099s transmits that data to the IRS computers.  If you transmit your return the same way, then their computers will have everything they need to trigger an audit without any human intervention.  But if you mail it in printed form, a human would have to examine it and do some checking to see if you might be a candidate for an audit.  So your chances of being audited are greatly reduced.  That’s my take on it, but I can swing both ways.”

Bobbi raised an eyebrow.  “Is that a fact?”

“I’m talking about alternative filing methods,” said the disgusted Tax Lady.

“Uh-huh.  But nobody has their tax stuff here,” said Bobbi matter-of-factly.

“No problem,” she replied.  “I’ll just sit here and have a beer while you guys all go home and get your ‘tax stuff,’ as you call it.”

A couple of the women said that they would go home and get their tax stuff and be back in a few minutes.  I stared at my beer and hoped I was relatively inconspicuous.  It didn’t work.

“What about you, Junk Mail Head?” she asked me.

At that very moment, a bolt of inspiration hit me from out of the blue.  With only five words, I could get her irrevocably off my case.

“I don’t have any money,” I said, heaving a sigh of relief.

“I take Mastercard and Visa,” she growled.

The woman was ruthless.  A terrible pain suddenly gripped my stomach.  I covered my eyes and contemplated the meaning of life.

“Excuse me, where are the vending machines?” a strange voice whispered in my ear.  I looked up and saw the face of an angel.  She looked innocent and at the same time intelligent.  I was captivated.

“Cigarettes, you mean?” I asked.

“Well, whatever machines they have,” she said with a smile.  She was fairly tall and had a terrific figure.  Her hair, which appeared to be naturally blonde, was slightly wavy and just past shoulder length.

“There’s only the cigarettes and the jukebox,” I said, gazing into her gorgeous green eyes.  I was fading fast.

“Oh…I see.  Well, I wonder, then.”

“What’re you looking for?”

“I’m just wondering where the natural place would be to put my machine,” she said as she peered around the bar.

“Your machine?  What do you mean?  What kind of machine do you have?” I asked.

“A vending machine for dental dams,” she said, grinning proudly.

“What a concept,” interjected Bobbi, who should have been minding her own business.  “That’s really…modern!”

I was speechless.  I couldn’t take my eyes off the Damsel.  “How much do you charge for a dental dam?” I finally blurted.

“Fifty cents,” she replied suggestively.

“That seems fair,” I said.  I was wishing I could think of something clever to say, but my mind was hopelessly muddled.

The Tax Lady broke the silence.  “It belongs in the bathroom with the feminine hygiene products,” she said.

“Oh, that’s so mundane,” the Damsel protested.  “I think it should be right next to the jukebox, so nobody will miss it,” she continued, shifting her attention to the Tax Lady.

Snap.  I saw it right then, at that very moment.  I saw it in the Tax Lady’s eyes.  She was hooked.  She was hooked on the Damsel.  “Well, that’s a thought,” she said weakly.  The Damsel smiled.

“So anyway,” I said, “how long have you been in business?”

“Only six months.  I started last October,” replied the Damsel.  “It’s been going surprisingly well.”

“Have you done your taxes for last year yet?” the Tax Lady asked.

“Well, no.  I’ve been so busy.  There’s a big demand for dental dams these days and—”

“You haven’t?” interrupted the Tax Lady.  “Have you kept track of your expenses?  What’s your cost per dental dam?  What’s your cost/revenue ratio?”

“Gee, that’s kind of personal,” said the Damsel in surprise.  She glanced around the bar.  “People are listening,” she added cautiously.  She was blushing.

“Sorry,” the Tax Lady said, “but it’s just that it sounds like you’ve got quite a deal going here, and you really need a sharp Tax Lady, such as myself, to make sure you get every deduction you’re legally entitled to.”

“You can do that?” cried the Damsel.  “You know all the forms to fill out, and everything?”

The Tax Lady laughed seductively and said, “Come here and look at this.”  She motioned to the binders on the bar.

“What is it?” asked the wide-eyed Damsel.

There was a reverent silence, after which she finally spoke.  “This is Package X, my dear.”

The Damsel gazed in awe at the binders.  “I’ve never seen Package X,” she whispered.

The Tax Lady opened the first binder (Volume 1).  “You see,” she explained, “I have in these three binders every single tax form that the IRS issues, together with complete instructions on how to fill them out.  Do you understand the significance of that?”

“I think I do,” said the Damsel after a moment’s contemplation.  “So…we have to somehow distill the essence of my dental dam vending machine business into these forms in Package X,” she said.  “So…do you practice safe sex?”

My opening at last!  “I practice safe sex,” I volunteered eagerly.

The Damsel turned to me and smiled broadly.  I was liking it.

The Tax Lady glared at me.  “Oh, don’t bother with that one,” she said to the Damsel.  “She hasn’t even separated her tax papers from her junk mail.  Now, you’ll need a Schedule C and plenty of documentation to back it up.”

The Damsel’s smile faded.  “It’ll take me quite awhile to get everything together.”

“Well, you’d better start A-S-A-P, if you want to avoid a late filing penalty,” warned the Tax Lady, “like right now, for instance.”

“Gee, I wouldn’t know where to begin,” the Damsel said.

The Tax Lady took the Damsel’s hands in hers and said tenderly, “Tell you what, sweetie.  Go home right now and gather up all of your receipts and canceled checks.  I’ll come over to your place tonight and show you what to do.”

“Oh, you’re wonderful,” chirped the Damsel.  She gave the Tax Lady her address and hurried out.

I watched the whole morbid episode in utter disbelief.  I stared at my beer.  “I don’t believe this,” I told the beer.

To my further surprise, the women who had left earlier to get their tax stuff both came back.  The Tax Lady did their returns on her HP Pavilion notebook computer.  She even let them look at some of the forms and instructions in Package X.  It appeared to give them the warm feeling that they were getting every deduction they were legally entitled to.

Then she brought in a slick eleven-pound HP Laserjet 1018 printer from her car.  She plugged it in next to the jukebox, cabled it to the computer, printed the tax returns, and collected a little over a hundred bucks from the “clients.”  Just to show what a sport she was, she bought each of them a beer.

On her way out, she stopped and said to me, “I’ll give you a little lesson in life, Junk Mail Head.  Taxes are inevitable.  Everybody needs a Tax Lady…get it?”

“I see,” I lied.

“Look at the bright side,” said Bobbi after the Tax Lady was gone.  “Taxes are seasonal.  Dental dams are year-round…get it?”

I didn’t get it right then, but I knew that hidden somewhere in all of this was the true meaning of life.  I nodded knowingly.  “Very subtle,” I observed.

- The End -

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