Special Agent Ham was a tall man, tall like a mountain. A Mountain of Ham. His hair was cropped short, as I imagine is the protocol for tough-looking officer archetypes. "Boy," Special Agent Ham said, "I've seen a lot of punks come through this office." He leaned in menacingly and lowered his voice to a gravelly whisper. "But you,
McCloud was clearly the "good cop" in this cheap, hastily conceived relationship. He smiled a lot, asked me how I was doing, that sort of thing. Special Agent Ham called me "son," a lot, but he mostly looked nothing like my father. He was black, was probably the biggest difference. He reminded me of Denzel Washington in
"Well, Mr. O'Brien, the discrepancies on your tax form range from the small and fixable to the large and, to be honest, somewhat perplexing. You put down three different social security numbers, all of them belonging to deceased people." "Yeah, I've got a bunch more, too, if you need them." "You shouldn't really
"So, I figured if suckers are gonna send over $3 to a presidential candidate, I might as well remind the world that I threw my hat into the ring last year with the reanimated corpse of Ol' Dirty Bastard as my running mate. See if I can collect some of that scratch, know what I mean?" "You did
"I'm saying it's impossible for you to have run for president." "And I'm saying that that's exactly the kind of stilted, unambitious thinking that's going to make America a two-party country forever," I said. Agent McCloud faced Agent Ham and widened his eyes and leaned forward slightly, like he was trying to mime "See? I
"OK, yes, we should get down to business. Now, first of all, it looks like under exemptions you put your own box for 'Taxes,'" Agent McCloud said. "Yes," I confirmed, "and, more importantly, I'd like you to please note that I checked that box, so to say that I would like to be exempt from taxes this year. All taxes." "You can't make your own boxes," Agent Ham barked. Without being condescending, I slid the paper back to Ham and pointed to the spot where I made the little box, to assure him that I could, and in fact I did. "It's right up there under exemptions," I added helpfully, in case he still couldn't see it. Agent Ham started loosening his tie and cracking his knuckles, which seemed like a strange way of saying 'Thank you.' "Why don't we just move on... Would you care to explain the dependents section?" "Oh, no doubt. I
"He does not have a point, McCloud. I know you're the superior agent on this case, but your handling of this situation is just a bit delicate for my tastes." Agent Ham stood up, his eyes glistening with tears that were formed, but not quite yet ready to fall. He held his head up high, looking like Terrence Howard or Mos Def or Theo Huxtable. As quick as he was earlier to lose his temper, Agent Ham's speech now was firm and measured. He spoke with the eloquence and passion of a man who truly cared about and believed in his subject. "We have a system of laws in this country, Mr. O'Brien, and that you share in the benefits and freedoms inherent to being an American citizen means that you sign a intangible contract that binds you to those laws. By living here, by enjoying the
"Huh. So it is. Boy, that's a little embarrassing." "Don't beat yourself up," McCloud said. "Man," I started, "between Ham on my back and this egg on my face, I've got quite a balanced breakfast going on!" Agent McCloud and I slapped high five. "Whew, this kid's a riot, this kid. Ham, did you hear this? The kid's alright. s**t." "Dammit, McCloud, you're handling plutonium with kid's gloves. This is serious. I can no longer take-" "Then don't take it anymore, Ham. Why don't you go for a walk, or something? Leave me and the kid for a while, would that be alright, kid?" I mumbled something in the affirmative, but really I was pretty distracted licking the table to find out what kind of steel it was. Bolivian Red, maybe? Or the kind they use on Popsicle sticks, but in the future. "Yeah," Agent Ham said, "yeah, maybe I should... take a walk." He shuffled out of the interrogation room, a broken shell of a man. McCloud gave me one of those What-are-ya-gonna-do? shrugs and we shared a brief chuckle. "So, McCloud, level with me: Is this whole tax thing
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