Here’s this week’s episode of The Port City Chronicle, the continuing serial novel of Gretchen, a 46-year-old criminal defense lawyer, and her family and friends, seeking love and happiness in Portland the hard way:
“I’ll tell you a secret,” the postal clerk said to Tim, as he was mailing his taxes. “You don’t have to send this by certified mail. It’s the one piece of mail that always gets delivered. You don’t even have to have a stamp.”
So Tim left the window without buying a stamp and headed toward the mail slot looking very satisfied.
“I don’t think he meant literally you don’t need a stamp,” I said, grabbing his arm. “You waited in the line all that time, why didn’t you just pay the 50 cents.”
He put the envelope in the slot. “He said I don’t need one, I’m not going to waste my money.”
“He wasn’t telling you not to buy a stamp,” I said desperately. After making a production out of his taxes, he was messing it up at the last minute. “How could he possibly mean that? This is a post office. Postage is all they sell here.”
Tim looked at me disdainfully. “Not everybody is as mercenary as you.”
“Mercenary?” Ethan interjected. “How do you think the economy functions? Do you even know what supply and demand are?”
He was annoyed with Tim anyway because he’d worn a suit, for the first time in ages, presumably just for the occasion of paying his taxes.
“Supply is when you give something, demand is when you want something.”
That was a pretty good answer. But it didn’t change the fact that his taxes were now probably going to be late.
“Anyway, why are you walking around in a pin-striped suit?” Ethan asked. He hates foppishness even more than taxes.
“This isn’t really a pin-striped suit,” Tim said. “It’s more like seersucker if you really look closely.”
“It’s pin-striped,” Ethan said. “You’re wearing a Wall Street suit.”
Tim stroked the lapel. “Feel the fabric. It may be pin-striped but it’s a summer suit. I could be a Graham Greene character in the tropics wearing a straw hat and about to kill myself.”
“But what about the shoes?” I asked, pointing to his cordovan shoes and trying to avoid the heavier material threading through his answer.
“I know, the shoes are wrong, I should have worn hibachis,” he said. “Or are those grills? I mean the sandals but I don’t exactly remember what they’re called.”
“I thought it was a fashion faux pas to wear sandals with a suit,” I said.
“The worst fashion faux pas is when everything is tucked into your underwear,” he said.
I hadn’t even noticed I’d done that.
“Why would you wear a summer suit on a day like today?” Ethan asked. “It’s not even warm out.”
“I know,” Tim said. “I’m very insulted it hasn’t gotten any warmer.”
Ethan was still looking at him critically. “Anyway, I think your backpack is on too tight.”
But that wasn’t why Tim was standing so straight. He just felt good about himself in his new suit.
It was exactly what was bothering Ethan. He couldn’t bear to see Tim in that suit with nothing to do. And Tim didn’t help the situation.
“I have a lot on my mind but don’t let me forget I need to write my friend Joel Reis back today,” he said. “He emailed me a couple of weeks ago to say hi and I still haven’t responded.”
“What a burden,” Ethan said.
“I have to put some thought into it,” Tim said, nodding. “And some measure of feeling.”
I had to agree with Ethan it didn’t sound too onerous to those of us who had a tough day of work ahead.
“There must be a real hole in your schedule now that March Madness is over,” I said. I hadn’t planned to be mean about it but I couldn’t help myself. All Tim had been doing was sitting around watching basketball for a month. It was particularly irritating when no one would come with me to see the Portland Ballet because he got everyone to watch the game with him.
“You must admit this is just as good as ballet,” he said later, showing me Villanova’s shot in the last second of the championship game.
There was no point in trying to defend ballet on those terms. “It wasn’t as good as that shot the U Conn guy made the other day from literally the other end of the court,” I said grouchily instead.
“Good job,” he said. “You knew it was U Conn.”
“Of course I did,” I said, sighing. “You made me watch it a hundred times.”
He hadn’t even seen the end of the Villanova game himself until later. “When North Carolina tied I stormed out of the bar and said to hell with the universe,” he said. “So I didn’t see the last second where Villanova scored.”
Still, he’d made it farther than he had a few years ago when he got too upset to watch the Spurs against the Heat with 9 and a half minutes left in the game.
“Anyway the game was almost over,” I said.
“Are you kidding?” he said. “That’s 9 and a half in human years.”
Those were the kinds of things that preoccupied him while he meanwhile screwed up his taxes.
“I can’t pay them anyway,” he said. “For some reason I got an adjusted W-2C and when I called the IRS to ask what that is they told me my questions would be dismissed in the order in which they were received.”
At any rate, he supposedly didn’t have any more time to deal with the IRS that morning. While I was trying to get him to fix the situation, he was hurrying down the street to the bank in such a rush he wasn’t able to get his card to work in the door and Ethan had to let him in.
“You’re good at that,” Tim said, putting his card in the ATM. “Now let’s see how I do at this. It’s a different skill.”
He said he needed to make an immediate transfer so the electronic check for his new suit wouldn’t bounce.
That was the last straw for Ethan. “Why the hell did you buy a new suit when you can’t even pay your taxes?”
Tim looked at him surprised. “Obviously because I need to make more money. Why do you think I’m wearing this suit? I’m interviewing today for a big corporate law job. How do you think the economy functions, anyway? Do you even know what supply and demand are?”