Confronting the BOE

I waited six months to hear back from the Board of Equalization. Six month.  When it finally arrived in a thick packet, along with their willingness to hear my case (yeah), was a copy of the State Franchise Tax Board’s rebuttal to my appeal (ick). It was eleven pages of dense posturing that made no sense even to my lawyer which I was required to write a rebuttal to. Suffice it to say, a year and a half later I finally had my day in court.

The following scene from Willful Avoidance takes place outside the courtroom before the hearings were set to begin and is written from the perspective of the clerk for the Board of Equalization who, in real life, I got to know rather well during all those rebuttals.

The battle was about to begin: the Invincible Tax Men versus the Appellants. Each side would have their moment in the ring, unless an Appellant cried “uncle” after arm-bending, threats and promises for leniency were made in last-minute deals. Fully versed on all new laws and decisions, the Tax Men had the home court advantage. The Appellants, especially the small-scale divisions with no direct plan (just an overwhelming belief in the humanity of their story) had little chance. But it all rested ultimately in the hands of the judges, the mighty BOE, now sharpening their pencils (metaphorically) as they prepared to play Solomon. On this day they would need to appear kindly but judicial, full of wisdom but not easily conned. All opinions rendered were, of course, of public record and therefore available for scrutiny by the voting public.
The hall outside the boardroom held all the merriment of a morgue. Four or five groups stood in nervous circles negotiating with FTB lawyers. They rattled their sabers quietly, in hushed tones as though at any moment one of the illustrious members of the BOE came through the boardroom door.
The appellants for the two cases Roberta knew were doomed to fail already sat in the back of the boardroom confidently. Their summaries were astonishingly brief, they had no exhibits to speak of, no legal representation, just some sort of rambling notion that they were in the right or that their current economic condition would get them out of an FTB debt. One appellant had even sent his cousin to plead his case because he couldn’t get off work. That would be a costly mistake. At nine thirty she walked over to the two groups still remaining in the hall. One was the Ravel Stone & Gravel gang with the Very Important lawyer.  The other, a woman and two men, one of whom Roberta knew quite well. Mark Slattery, an attorney better suited for Vegas than Sacramento.
It was time to go into the boardroom, she explained to both groups. “Even if your case isn’t scheduled until eleven, the board requires all litigants to be in attendance for opening remarks. After the board begins hearing cases, you can move your negotiations out to the hall again. But,” she cautioned, as Ravel Stone & Gravel sulked away, “keep in mind that the BOE rarely needs the allotted thirty-five minutes to decide a case. After they hear one case, they continue right on to the next one without taking a break. If your case is called in court and you do not respond, you will lose your chance to appeal.”
“What would we do without you, Robbie?” Slattery chuckled, putting an unwanted hand of her shoulder.
“Cut the bull.” He flirted with her as young men often do with women they consider mother figures, only Slattery wasn’t that young, and Roberta wasn’t that old.
“You must be Maya Bethany,” she said, reaching over to shake the hand of the woman standing across from Slattery. She was a gentle-looking woman with wavy auburn hair pulled back into a ponytail, soft grey eyes, and the high cheekbones of someone of Slavic descent. Other than a hint of lipstick, she wore no makeup and she’d dressed conservatively in slacks and a crisp, white blouse. Bravo, Roberta thought. It was the perfect look—neither flashy nor too casual. Over the past year she felt she’d gotten to know Maya Bethany, having read her appeals to the board. And now, here she was. Almost exactly as Roberta had imagined.



Remember that wonderful feeling after you’ve taken your last final and written your last paper and suddenly found yourself without any deadlines?  It’s like being weightless.  Shoved from the mothership without the tether of responsibility, nothing to hold onto, drifting into space but exhilarated, light as air, free.Gravity

Well, the feeling lasts about two seconds.   Then you start to feel lost, rudderless and without a cause.  That’s me today.  After a seemingly endless round of edits on a currently unnamed WIP, I’m done. But am I really? Maybe the book wasn’t really ready and I pushed it out the door too fast?  Maybe I missed some hideously embarrassing typo, some absolutely horrid bit of writing that will sink my already paralyzed and gasping-on-its-last-breath career.

move-onLuckily I’m not a perfectionist.  I do have a switch in my brain that says Move On.  Somewhere in the cob-webbed jungle of my mind past the tigers and hyenas and beneath the ravings of the Night Hags. I  just have to find it.


My virtual friend

On a separate though equal topic, I just reviewed my friend Duke’s guidebook for the hopeless in which he rifts about transmuting reality with virtual life, a problem he’s begun to encounter as his work gets into the hands of more and more admirers all with their own stories to tell. He doesn’t know if the stories he hears are real or something they’ve concocted for attention and fluctuates between an obsession with knowing the reality and trying to convince himself that it doesn’t really matter.


The closest I got to a brand – Writes with cat’s butt in face

When I first entered the virtual world (which is a requirement for all emerging writers) I was told by the marketing folks that it didn’t matter if my “brand” was the real me – I just had to come up with some kind of gimmick that would get me noticed.  I interpreted this to mean that gradually I would lose myself and become this other thing.  Cat Butt in Face Woman or whatever.  

Two years later and I still haven’t found my brand (probably because of a fear of transmuting) which brings to mind this quote from Olive Kitteridge, a movie I watched the other night.


“I’m going to call you later to see if your heart’s still ticking.  You are in the book, right?”

“I’m going to call you later to see if your heart’s still ticking.  You are in the book?”

My answer would be no, I am not in the book yet. 

Next, my lovelies, in support of aforementioned WIP, I begin blogging about something I know you’ll all find absolutely fascinating!  The Tax Code. Does anyone know what the term “Willful Avoidance” refers to?  If you live in the US, not knowing what that term means could land you in deep doo-doo with the taxman.