Irene Wanner

Face Value

Dear Internal Revenue Service:

You must be insane.  I worked on that income tax return
for at least two hours.  I'm not trying to cheat
anyone.  Who decided diet supplements and Spandex tights
are frills?  Some fat senator?
Do you know how hard it is to stay gorgeous
and sexy at my age?  Do you think I actually like
having my legs waxed and shaving you-know-where
so I can look tasty in those bikini
thong things when I give aerobics classes?

Dyanne's Dye-it and sExercise Spa may sound lame
to you but my clients count on me.  Dyanne,
my ladies tell me with tears in their eyes,
you are a gem, an absolute life saver!
I give them the confidence to go for it,
whether it's big hair or bigger boobs.
Some of my ladies would not dare color their hair
if I didn't hold their hands.
Others wouldn't have the mother wit
to avoid sneakers with business suits.
Can you believe it?
Me neither.

But my staff, and myself especially, really care.
We stock a full line of clinically-tested organic
beauty products and no animal was hurt
to produce them.  We offer a gym and exercise
classes, positivistic realignment, color-coordination
workshops (as a free gift you receive a booklet
showing 37 ways to tie silk scarves), facial/pedicure/
manicure packages, the trademarked procedure sTressRessQ,
somawraps, massage therapy, sexual creativity
and diet counseling.  I spent almost two years
studying at community college, so I'm not
just your basic bimbo with a foot fetish.
Until I educate them, some of my ladies
don't realize a walk in the park is dangerous
to their skin without sunscreen.  All my ladies
know I'm passionate about their complexions
and call me their professor of pulchritude
in the school of life.

I don't think there's anything E-Z
about your short form so I don't understand
why you insist on that longer one plus
more "documentation."  Requiring so many forms
isn't very efficient, is it?  (Not to mention wasting
paper is bad for mother earth's fragile ecology.)
And what took three years for you to write me,
anyway?  Like I said, I'm not trying to defraud
anyone.  You wouldn't hassle a man
like this, would you?  I am a businesswoman
who loves her country and her work.  You don't know
how satisfying it is to make over some mousy blonde
into a tanned goddess with a smile on her face.

I cried all morning because your letter was so mean.
I called your help line repeatedly
but no one ever answers.  If I ran my business
that way, I'd go bankrupt, so I don't think
you have any right to be so rude.
I mean, just last week this difficult
client comes in and I can't say to her, Honey,
face it, you're a cow.  I have to make her pretty
even if she's Elsie.  She has these thick black hairs
on her upper lip, poor thing, is otherwise hirsute
(that means hairy) plus also being way too large
proportional to her height.  But I can't say, Honey,
face it, you're big as a house,
you shouldn't wear a full-length jumper,
you look like you're walking around in a sleeping bag.
No.  She has lovely, slim ankles
so I start with those.  I don't just shriek,
Help her, Jesus!

You could take a page from my book,
is what I'm saying.  You could be polite.
There's no need to be nasty, my daddy (bless his heart)
always said, and I believe in him and the Golden Rule.
Even when I dumped my boyfriend Floyd
after I heard about him sneaking off to Tammy Sue
Johnson's place again, I wasn't mean.
Well, okay, I admit I threw his stuff out
the window.  But I meant well.
It was for his own good.

I did not call my cats Richard and Elizabeth
then claim them as dependents like one person
I could name and I served on jury duty
even when everyone else lies
to get out of it.  You will laugh to hear
the day I wore my dynamite red sheath dress
because that courtroom was so dreary
(who on earth decorated that place, anyway?),
I was selected as a juror for a prostitution
case.  I like to died!

But I did my best.  And I did my best
on your confusing forms.  You really should improve
your English (community colleges offer many remedial
composition courses).  For instance, I don't get
what "unearned income" is--if it's income,
how didn't I earn it?  That's only one example,
but I could give you more.

A little kindness never hurt
and I'm sure you've heard that expression
honey attracts more bees than vinegar.
You could have asked when it was convenient
for me to take time off work and been concerned
how hard it is to reschedule my ladies
instead of being so bossy about that audit.
I happen to know I will be previously engaged
in Palm Springs for an aestheticians'
conference at that time.

You shouldn't threaten American citizens
with penalties and prison.  Didn't you ever hear
we the people are innocent until proven guilty?
And I am not guilty.  I swear.  I filled out
your forms to the best of my ability
and it's not fair
for you to accuse me of being a crook.
If you took the time to know me, I bet
you'd love me as much as my ladies.
They know the value
of a make-over.
Do you?

Copyright 1999,  Irene Wanner

Irene Wanner is a prose writer who can't cope with length limits.  Her stories have appeared recently in StringTown and The New Orphic Review.  She reviews books for The Seattle Times, serves as a non-fiction editor for The Seattle Review, and teaches fiction writing at UW Extension's Certificate Writing Program. 

Switched-on Gutenberg
Contents / Vol. 4, No. 1
Back / Forward