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   t a x    m a n

---   J O S E P H   M I L L A R  

Thunder Bob used to drive for Consolidated Freight
before the small bones began to press
against the nerves in his lower back
and his right foot went numb.
Now he slouches in blue suspenders,
forearms propped on a steel desk, doing my taxes.

In the den his wife watches the Simpson trial and he wants to get me done, squinting down at last year's forms and muttering, a Chesterfield burning away between his fingers. You need more write-offs, he says, peering sideways through the smoke. Since you can't afford a house, why not have another kid, eh? Rain blowing in off the bay rattles the windows and the branches of the pin oaks moan. He knows my wife moved out last year. The kids I've got are waiting, eating cold Chinese by the TV.

You watch, he tells me. Soon they'll start messing with Social Security. I can hear the lawyers' voices carping down the airwaves and I think sometimes the rain will never end. O.J. Simpson? Oliver North? I dream that a hunched, mudcaked creature prowls the landscape, entering our homes while we rest. It leans over us with ragged breath, the smell of quicklime and swamp water rising, misting our faces in sleep.

Driving home through the storm, I think of him leaning against his porch.. Try to kick down more cash into Retirement, he'd said, bracing himself on his good foot. Nobody knows for sure what the hell's going to happen.

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