No escaping death, taxes, and Honey Boo Boo Child

The other day my wife stepped on a shrew. The good news is that it was already dead and so she doesn’t have a dead shrew on her conscience. When you spend as much time as she does volunteering at Homeward Bound, the animal shelter in Middlebury, Vermont the last thing you ever want to do is squash a living shrew with the thick wooden sole of your clog. The bad news? She thought the shrew was either a funky ribbon or a seriously drooled-upon cat toy when she saw it on the hard wood floor, and so she casually picked it up.

It gets worse, at least in her opinion. It wasn’t simply that she was holding a dead, squashed shrew in her bare hands; it was that she was holding a dead, squashed shrew in her bare hands in our bedroom.

Tomorrow is tax day. None of us can escape it, not even Republican Presidential candidates. As the old saying goes, there are three things in life that are unavoidable: death, taxes, and a new reality TV show about singing or dancing or adultery. Or being a bachelor. Someday I hope we have a reality show called “America’s Got Bachelors,” and Howard Stern, Donald Trump, and Honey Boo Boo Child judge which of two bachelors gets to date a super model and which one has to eat bugs.

So, the first thing I want to be sure that the IRS knows is that my wife and I are not going to claim that dead, squashed shrew as a dependant, because we honestly aren’t sure it was alive in 2012. We think it was, because supposedly shrews are born in the summer and live about a year. But we have no birth certificate or receipt, so we are going to let this deduction go.

We also have not taken our six cats as dependents, though it’s pretty clear they depend on us. One might have killed that shrew, but apparently none of them felt like they needed to eat it.

Nor are we claiming that our three-foot tall garden statue of St. Francis of Assisi is a foster child and, thus, a dependent. He’s not.

Ironically, if we had chosen to keep our shelter cats as “foster” pets instead of adopting them, their veterinary expenses might be deductible. Nope, we adopted them. They’re ours.

Also, while foster pets in some cases might be deductible, Neopets rarely are – unless, perhaps, you’re filing in Neopia and don’t mind risking time in a Neopian jail.

I am not taking the 6,132 ounces of Sugar Free Red Bull I consumed in 2012 as a business expense, even though I couldn’t have written one word without it. Instead I am simply going to dedicate a novel someday to my favorite “Go Go Juice.” (Just for the record, that 6,132-ounce figure is neither an estimate nor an exaggeration. That is precisely how much Red Bull I consumed in 2012. I’m not proud.)

My wife is not deducting the $17 gazillon she spent on cat toys to bring each week to the animal shelter. (Just for the record, that figure is an exaggeration. It was much closer to $11 gazillion.)

The truth is that even if I could deduct that dead, squashed shrew, it would have been a small deduction at best. Shrews do not eat like NFL nose tackles. They eat worms and bugs.

Besides, I tend to agree with Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. It was way back in 1927 that Holmes wrote in an opinion, “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.” Sure, I might spend our budget differently than our Government will. I don’t think any two people in this country would distribute our federal and state assets in quite the same way. And, yes, I believe a little tax reform might make the world a better place.

But tomorrow I will render unto Caesar what’s his. And it won’t be a shrew.

(This column appeared originally in the Burlington Free Press on April 14, 2013. The paperback of Chris’s novel, The Sandcastle Girls, goes on sale this week.)

Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is the author of nineteen books, including his forthcoming novel, The Sleepwalker. His other novels include the New York Times bestsellers Midwives, The Sandcastle Girls, The Guest Room, and The Double Bind.