Friday, April 1, 2011

ARSENIC

Penelope stood in the attic of her ancestral home. She loved the hexagon-shaped stained glass window which dominated the top floor of her Victorian Mansion in the Garden District of New Orleans. She stood at the antique wooden podium and looked down at a group of tourists gawking at her home. She wondered if they knew how close they were to getting cursed today.

Penelope opened her spell book with the utmost respect, just as her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother did before her. Her lineage, along with her powers, traced back to the seventeenth century.

Penelope put the finishing touches on her love potion, and raised her arms above her head. She recited the words from her spell book, enjoying the ritual of her craft. It surprised her to run out so quickly. She kicked herself for not brewing the love potion in bulk sooner than today. But with Valentine’s day coming up, the orders poured in. With word of mouth increasing her sales dramatically, she barely scrounged enough ingredients together to make her final batch.

She heard a knock at her door. Are you kidding me? She closed her spell book and covered it with the black, embroidered silk cloth. She descended two flights of stairs, growing impatient with each subsequent knock her visitor delivered. If he only knew who lived here.

Penelope checked her appearance in the foyer mirror, her long black hair hung straight against her tall slender frame. Her creamy white complexion made her mismatched eyes stand out. Although most believed her one blue eye and one green eye made her a freak, Penelope knew it a sign she inherited the strongest powers of Witchcraft. Her family prayed to birth girls carrying the blue eye/green eye trait.

“Good afternoon, Ma’am. Are you Penelope Manchester?” the man asked, tipping his hat like a Southern Gentleman.

“Yes, I am,” she said, admiring his good manners. Maybe he knew, after all?

“My name is James Toliver, identification 1975690. I’m an agent with the Internal Revenue Service,” he said.

“You're with the IRS?” Penelope asked.

“Yes, Ma’am. Our office made several attempt to contact you. I’ve telephoned and sent letters, but I haven’t heard a response. I’m glad to see you are alive and well, Ma’am. But I hope to schedule a time to meet with you to discuss various tax matters,” he said.

“Sure, now is as good of a time as any. Please, won’t you come in?” Penelope asked, only because he acted so nice to her.

“Thank you, Ma’am. You have a lovely home,” James said, entering the enormous mansion and marveling at its exorbitant furnishings and d├ęcor.

“Thank you, would you like a cup of tea?” Penelope asked.

“I’d love some, if it’s no trouble, of course,” he said.
“Excuse me while I put the kettle on,” Penelope said, disappearing into the kitchen.

“How did you find out about me?” Penelope asked, returning to the agent in the living room.

“When I audited a friend of yours, he tried to deduct your spell casting services from his income. He showed me a receipt for $5,000. Did Kyle Smith pay you to curse someone? He said it was a necessary expense for his business. Never in my 30 years with the service have I witnessed such a ridiculous deduction,” the agent said.

“Oh, yes, I remember Kyle. Did he tell you if it worked?” Penelope asked. Her blood boiled with anger.

“I didn’t ask, that’s not my job. I have a copy of your tax returns for the last several years, and I’d like to ask you a few questions,” the agent said, his tone turned harsher.

“My CPA, Terri, prepares my taxes. All of my income derives from my great-grandmother’s Dynasty trust,” Penelope said.

“Yes, I can see, your taxable income exceeds over five-million dollars each year. But I’m afraid you’re not reporting all of your income,” James said.

“I don’t understand, I pay over a million dollars in taxes every year. How much more do you want?” Penelope asked. She felt furious to pay the government so much money, especially after the way the authorities treated her ancestors.

“Do you earn money from your potions and spell casting services?” James asked.
“I suppose, but it’s nothing compared to the income I receive from my trust fund,” Penelope said.

“I’m afraid you must pay taxes on your income derived from all sources. However, your accountant can deduct your costs related to your, uh, business,” James said.

“I have to pay taxes on the money I make from Witchcraft?” Penelope asked, trying to control her anger.

“I’m afraid so,” James said. He turned his head towards the kitchen as the tea kettle whistled.

“Excuse me while I see to your tea,” Penelope said.

She hurried to the kitchen and removed the boiling water from the stove. She poured the steaming water in the tea pot, feeling furious at the nerve of this man. Taxing my Witchcraft income? Seriously?

Penelope took the back stairs straight to the attic, carrying her teapot with her. She retrieved her dark magic spell book from the bookshelf and blew off the dust. Her family only practiced good magic, but they made exceptions for demons and bad people. She felt this man fell under the latter.

She found a potion she’d never used before and lacked confidence in its success. She scrounged the required ingredients together and placed them in the steaming pot of tea. Penelope lit a candle and raised her arms above her head as she read the words to cast the spell.

As she closed the pages of her ancestral spell book, she added a sprinkle of arsenic to the Tax Man’s tea, just to be sure.