Issue Thirteen - September 2008

The Day of Concern

By Clark Gilbert

I woke up on the “day of concern” at 6:03 a.m., as I have done since I was seven years old. I sat on the edge of my bed and counted my teeth with my tongue. I have a total of thirty teeth. When I was eight, I had thirty-two, at that time I read an article that said when aliens take humans for testing they will often remove a tooth or two. Since then every morning I count my teeth to make sure I have all thirty-two of them. When I was fourteen, a dentist (and not some alien) removed two wisdom teeth that left me with thirty teeth. I have known Dr. Paterson, the dentist, all of my life, so I know for sure that he was not an alien. Dr. Paterson had a dog named Shelly and she would catch a ball in mid-air if you threw it high enough.

Shelly lived fourteen years, three months and twenty-five days. I know this because I was there when Shelly was born, and because it was also when Bingo was born. Bingo was white with some black spots. Bingo lived with Ms. Anderson, who lived across the street and three doors down from Dr. Paterson and Shelly. Bingo lived for nine years, five months and sixteen days. Too short of a life for a dog like Bingo. Bingo was hit by Mr. Addleman’s car while Mr. Addleman drove down the street. I cried, but my mom told me that Bingo was with God, and that made me feel better. Though I don’t understand why God needed Bingo more than Ms. Anderson, since God is supreme and all powerful and Ms. Anderson is an old lady who is lonely most of the day.

But, back to that morning when I woke up at 6:03 a.m. and sat on the side of my bed and counted my teeth. I had thirty teeth. I stood up and walked six steps over to the window and looked outside to see what the day was at 6:04 a.m. I could see the clouds and that the clouds hung down over town like a heavy woolen blanket, similar to the one I would sit under when I was young and reading my comic books with a flashlight. The woolen blanket would hang on my head and shoulders heavily, like the clouds were hanging heavy and gray and woolen on the town today. I like cloudy days. They protect me from the sun rays which have a detrimental effect on my skin. I like my skin and wear long sleeve shirts even in the summer to protect me.

“This is going to be a good day,” I thought.

After assessing the weather, I checked the position of a feather that I had found on my way home from work thirteen months and seven days ago. I placed it near the window opening so it would have to be moved in the event an alien opened the window and came into my room to perform experiments on me while I slept. This feather is test number two that I have for detecting intruding aliens in my studio. Test number one is counting my teeth and so far that morning I had passed two of my three tests. I walked the seven steps to my studio door where I had placed my shoes–black with soft soles because I don’t like to make noise when I walk, especially at night when aliens might be looking for someone to experiment on. I placed my shoes in such a position that if the door were to open while I was sleeping, the shoes would ever so slightly move, and I could evaluate by their position if the door had been opened. The shoes where in the same place that they were in, when I went to bed. Test number three had been passed and I was now free to go to the bathroom to do my “business” and take my shower and prepare for the work day.

Then I dressed myself, white button-up shirt and black pants, black socks and my black soft sole shoes. I have four pair of black pants and eight white button-up shirts and ten pairs of black socks. It would not be appropriate to tell you about my underwear. I don’t like to think about what to wear in the morning like my sister did when we were still living at home. She would spend an average of forty-nine minutes each morning determining what to wear and I would spend two minutes on what to wear. I have been wearing black pants, a white button-up shirt, black socks and black soled shoes for the past eighteen years, three months and twenty-three days.

For breakfast I ate my strawberry Pop Tart, which I love, and drank one-and-a-half cups of orange juice fortified with Vitamin D. I would sit and wait for twenty-nine minutes looking through my window blinds across the street at the two floor apartment building made out of brick. That building’s address is 732 Langley Street, and my building is 735 Langley Street. At 8:00 a.m., I left my studio and walked the nine blocks to my work at Mr. Steve’s CPA office. The walk takes me an average of one thousand eight and fifty-one steps.

Mr. Steve is really Mr. Stephen McAllister. I used to call Mr. Steve Mr. McAllister but Mr. Steve told me that it sounded too much like his Dad and asked me to call him Steve. But I told him that I couldn’t call him just Steve since he was my employer and supervisor, and I would not be comfortable. So he thought about it for forty-six seconds and told me that I could call him Mr. Steve, which I do. I have worked for Mr. Steve for five years, four months and twenty four days. Mr. Steve is kind to me.

I like working in Mr. Steve’s CPA office because I love the Tax Code and all the laws that pertain to taxes. I find the Tax Code very fascinating. The Government of the United States tells us, the citizens, that we must pay taxes and then the Government of the United States tells us, the citizens, all the ways we can keep from having to pay so many taxes. Mr. Steve tells me I am gifted with the Tax Code because I have committed the entire code and addendums to memory, even though each year the Government of the United States changes the Tax Codes, usually allowing for even more ways one might not have to pay taxes.

So I re-memorize the tax codes each year before tax season begins on January 1. I can answer any question about taxes and recite the Tax Code that pertains to the question. My position for Mr. Steve is to evaluate people’s tax returns and assess if they are entitled to all the exemptions that they have asked for in their returns. Mr. Steve tells me that I am better at doing that than a computer. This is due to the fact that I have a “photographic mind.”

So, during the tax season I review hundreds of tax returns that have been prepared by one of the six tax preparers in Mr. Steve’s CPA Office. If I find something missing or not right, I send the return back to the accountable tax preparer, along with the section of the Tax Code that pertains to the oversight. I find oversights in seventy-eight point three percent of the tax returns that I evaluate.

Mr. Steve tells me I am good for business, as I save his clients money. The six tax preparers don’t talk to me, even when I catch their eye when I go sit at my table in the back of the large office space. Mr. Steve said he would give me an office with a desk and a computer, but I told him I would not be comfortable in an office, and I would like to sit at the table in the back of the large office, and that I only needed a pencil. I don’t like computers, and I don’t like being around them when they are on. Mr. Steve said that would be fine and gave me a big box of fifty No. 2 pencils and a battery-operated pencil sharpener. One pencil lasts me nineteen days, and I don’t use the eraser.

The “concern” happened at 2:33 p.m. in the afternoon. I was sitting at my work table doing an evaluation on Mr. and Mrs. Harrison’s return, when the sun broke through the clouds, and the sunlight, which concerns me, flooded my work table. I stood and walked the five steps to the window and pulled the blinds down. The sky was mostly blue, and I was concerned with the amount of sunlight that was coming into the office. One of the tax preparers, Beth, looked at me as I lowered the blinds and asked me if I could leave them up, and I explained that I was concerned for my skin and lowered the blinds. She said, “whatever.”

At 2:36 p.m., Mr. Steve called me into his office, which was sixteen steps to the right of my work table. I walked up to Mr. Steve’s desk and stood. He offered me a seat, but I always stand in Mr. Steve’s office, and he knows that but he always asks. I thank him and then stand.

At 2:38 p.m. Mr. Steve asked me a tax question, which is normal for Mr. Steve to do since that is my job–to answer his questions. As soon as he asked me, I started getting nervous and I started breathing harder. Mr. Steve recognized my discomfort because I get, as Mr. Steve says, “the look of dread” on my face. I have had “the look of dread” four times since I have worked for Mr. Steve. I don’t like “the look of dread” because I feel so unpleasant at the time.

I stood there thinking really hard, and I could not find the answer to his question. I always know the answer. There are only two possibilities where I would not have the answer in my mind. First, I think maybe I am losing my memory. But that doesn’t make any sense since I am twenty-five years, three months and four days old. If I were sixty-seven years old, then an appropriate amount of memory loss would be acceptable. But not now, at twenty-five years, three months and four days old. The second possibility is that aliens have drained part of my memory from me, but that couldn’t have happened since I have always passed the three part test.

I continued to breathe hard, and my mind was working, going through the Tax Code with all of its addendums, and I could not find the answer. And I was starting to get frightened, and when I get frightened I begin to cry, and Mr. Steve got up from his desk and walked over to me telling me it was going to be alright, and that I should sit at my work table and think things through for the next twenty minutes, and then I might find the answer. But I knew the answer was not in the Tax Code or its addendums.

I returned to my work table and sat there, going over in my mind again and again the Tax Code, and I couldn’t find the answer. I stood up and walked the thirty-two steps to where the printed Tax Code was located on the book shelf. I picked it up and returned to my work table and began looking through it assessing if I missed memorizing something, which would actually have been a third possibility. I found the section that should have answered Mr. Steve’s question, but I could not find the answer by reading the text.

I sat there and was beginning to become frightened again, and I started to cry softly when I noticed at the end of the section that there was in the binding the slight remains of a page. A page had been cut out of the Tax Code. The exact Tax Code that I memorized. There was a page cut out that I did not memorize, and therefore could not have had the text in my mind, and so I could not access the information when Mr. Steve asked me his question.

Picking up the book I returned to Mr. Steve’s office and showed him the discovery that I had made. Mr. Steve looked at the cut page and thought it “strange.” He then said he would compare the printed text with his computer text of the Tax Code, and he turned on his computer. I walked backwards four steps to the door and stood. Because I do not like computers. Mr. Steve knows this. He “loaded” the computer text version of the tax code and selected the section that had the cut-out page. He read for two minutes and fifty-one seconds and then looked up and said that there indeed was a missing page. He motioned me over to look, but I hesitated, and then he said that he would print the missing page out, which he did and handed it to me, so I walked the sixteen steps to my work table and began to study the missing text. It took me twenty-two seconds to find the answer to Mr. Steve’s question. I was so happy that aliens hadn’t stolen my memory that I cried “happy tears.”

Mr. Steve came out of his office and stood next to my work table where I began to answer his question in earnest with references. He thanked me and then announced that he was going to have an office meeting “Right Now.” And the six tax preparers and Mr. Steve walked into his office, and Mr. Steve closed the door. I never go to office meetings, as I prefer to perform my evaluations or study the Tax Code, which I really enjoy.

They were in the office meeting for forty-two minutes, and then the door opened and they all walked out but they did not look at me as they passed my work table. Some of them had pink faces and they did not look happy. The last one to pass was Carol, but I never speak to her except to point out errors with her tax returns.

Carol stood by my work table for eighteen seconds and then with a sigh began to speak to me, which was unusual, and this what she said: “I am sorry for cutting the page out of the book. I meant it as a joke.”

I thought about what she said for a total of six seconds and then replied to her, “A joke is something said or done to evoke laughter, especially an amusing story with a punch line. A joke is not something that is to cause undue stress or discomfort to another person. This was not a joke.”

She looked at me for three seconds and then said, “You are such a freak,” then turned and walked to her desk and sat down.

At that moment I wanted to stand on my work table and shout at the top of my lungs, “Who’s the freak? At least I know what a joke is and what a joke is not!” I, instead, returned my attention to the tax return of Mr. and Mrs. Harrison and found three errors in the calculations. They were Carol’s errors. So I referenced the Tax Code on a piece of paper and walked the twenty-nine steps to Carol’s desk and laid the tax return on her desk, and then returned to my work table and picked up the next tax return for me to evaluate belonging to a Mr. Tommy Hansen.

I worked on that return until Mr. Steve walked up to me and said it was time to go home. I looked up and noticed that everyone else had left. I stood up, laid my pencil on my work table and grabbed my jacket. Mr. Steve asked me if I was alright. I told him I was very grateful that my memory had not been stolen and that there existed a perfectly logical solution. Mr. Steve smiled and asked me if I wanted a ride home, and I told him “no” and thanked him, and walked out the door and walked the nine blocks to my studio.

Once in my studio I hung my jacket up on my hook by the door and ate a strawberry Pop Tart, which I love, and drank two glasses of orange juice fortified with Vitamin D for dinner. I open my blinds on my window and sat looking across the street at the two floor apartment building made out of brick for forty-four minutes waiting for my mother to call. She always calls at 7:30 p.m., though she does have a standard of error of three minutes and sixteen seconds. That night she called at 7:31 p.m. and asked me how my day was, and I told her about the clouds this morning making this a good day, and then how I worked through four evaluations before the “concern” happened. I told her all about what had happened with the sun coming onto my desk and me pulling the blinds, and how Mr. Steve asked me a question that I could not answer. My mother, said “Oh, dear.” I went on to explain how stressed I was about possibly having my memory stolen, though I told her I had passed all my tests this morning. My mother knows about my fears of alien testing and helped me develop my three part alien detection test.

My mother listened to all parts of my story without speaking and then, after I told her I had wanted to stand on my work table and yell but that I hadn’t, she said that she was proud of me for showing restraint.

We sat in silence for thirty-two seconds before my mother said that she had watched me walk home from work, and that I looked good. I didn’t know how to respond, so I was very quiet. My mother was quiet, too. I looked out my window over to the brick apartment building at 732 Langley Street, and my gaze went to the second floor apartment with the large bay windows, and there standing in her living room talking on her phone was my mother who was waving at me. I waved back and moved away from the window.

My mother then asked me what I was going to do with the rest of the evening. I told her that I was going to memorize, again, the missing text from the Tax Code, and then quiz myself on potential questions that Mr. Steve might have for me. My mother asked me if I wanted to come over and visit, and I explained to her that I was learning to live an independent life and going over to visit her might interfere with that. My mother then said that even people living independent lives often will spend time with friends and family and don’t lose their independence. I reminded her that I saw her eleven days and six hours ago, and she said that she understood that, but that she missed me. I didn’t know what to say. I have been living an independent life for thirteen months and eight days. And sometimes, like this, I still don’t know what to do.

We were quiet for one minute and twelve seconds when I said, “We could spend time together on Saturday.”

My mother said “That would be wonderful,” and that we could watch a movie together and she would pop popcorn. I asked if she would put real melted butter on the popcorn, because I really like popcorn with real melted butter, and she said yes! And that made me happy.

I told my mother that we had been on the phone for thirty-four minutes and twenty-nine seconds and that I needed to study the missing Tax Code text. She wished me a good night and told me she loved me, and I wished her a good night and told her I loved her too, and I hung up the phone.

I studied the missing text until ten o’clock. I did my “business” and dressed for bed. I made sure the feather was in its proper place and that my black shoes with soft soles were positioned correctly by the door, as I do every night.

Crawling into bed, I laid on my back looking up at the dark ceiling. I prayed. I thanked God that aliens did not steal my memory, and asked God to keep the aliens away from me again this night.

I was very quiet for three minutes, fifty-three seconds.

I smiled a big smile, maybe the biggest smile I have ever smiled in my whole life, knowing that I had answered the question that Mr. Steve had asked me, and that I was not having my memory stolen by aliens.

I then closed my eyes and went to sleep.