I'll Tax Your Feet, Part I A Story in Two Parts by Tommy Westerhold
Illuminate is happy to publish our first story. Its written by long-time friend and entrepreneur, Tommy Westerhold. We welcome your contributions; stories, poetry, news, politics, or even rants [within reason].
I'LL TAX YOUR FEET PART I by Tommy Westerhold U.S. Senator Buster T. Porkwangle is in his final term after 40 years representing the largest orange producing region in the state of Florida. At this red hot moment, he's wrestling with the sticky mess of trying to get support for one of his final and greatest bills, called the Bryant Bill - in honor of one of Navel County's heroes, Anita Bryant. This bill would, once & for all, make all transgender students in the U.S. use a bathroom that is officially designated as "unisex." He's asked his aides & interns for ideas on how to get support for this legislation from his liberal counterparts.
"Lord knows I didn't hire you kids for your LOOKS....well, all except for YOU Sheila...tee, hee hee. Y'all had fantastic grades and recommendations comin' outta Liberty University. Now I want you kids to go out tuh yer IDEA FARM and grow me some IDEAS on this!"
"Senator, we won't let you down! Your constituency is praying for your success, and this will be your legacy."
"Thatta boy! Now go on....git!"
---------------------- The sleepy, misty hamlet of Pippin, WA. is a 180 year-old enclave tucked away in the Yakima Valley. Pippin owes its existence to the humble apple, which thrives in the lava enriched soil. Picking, packing, and now brewing apples has made this tight little community a lovely, thriving place to live. But life has gotten complicated today after the news.
Elmer Pickins rubbed his temples and looked over the disturbingly official looking papers again. Could it be TRUE that a tax on all of his apples and apple products is imminent? Just because he started up his hard cider operation? Yes, hard cider is certainly a fast-growing segment of his business, but as a percentage of his revenues, it's minor.
Compounding the problems that Elmer now contemplates is a severe shortage of pickers. The seasonal labor force has started to think twice about migrating north for the apple harvest. Instead, Mexicans and Central Americans are making themselves invisible again the the big cities to avoid harsh measures put into place by the new administration, and after seeing how INS (Immigration & Naturalization Service) is hunting down the undocumented in many places considered sanctuary cities.
Elmer picks up his phone and punches the number for his US senator, Chester Puffin. Puffin has had a good run as senator, but this year will be his last. With the political headwinds he's been facing, he would rather retire to his 30 foot sailboat and sail off into the sunset. But for now, he knows he'd better pick up that phone.
"ELMER! How's my most illustrious cider king?"
"Listen, Chester: Cider is a big reason for my call. What do you know about this tax on apples? Apples are fruit, as I recall. And fruit gets a PASS! Why wasn't I given a heads-up on this?"
"A tax on apples? Ridiculous! I've heard nothing on this ( lying )."
"And it soon won't matter if I have no pickers, now, will it?"
"That rascal Trump is screwing up the whole labor scene all up & down the coast!"
"And you? What tools do you have in your toolbox to UNSCREW that?"
"Well, I know that asshole Bannon prefers something more potent than hard cider, but I guess a case sent his way couldn't hurt."
"A CASE OF HARD CIDER - FOR BANNON? Oh PLEASE! Chester, I know you really don't need my support now, but if you want to have an easy last 2 years up here, you'd better get a handle on this."
"Don't I know it. That town hall was BRUTAL, and it's goona get BRUTALER!"
"Not a word. But neither is "BRUTALFEST", but you may find a home in your vocabulary for that real soon."
---------------------- State Senator Enrico Cortez, a first generation Mexican American, was born in California to parents who worked in the fields and orchards up & down the west coast. After graduating from Stanford with honors, he began to focus on his lifelong aspiration to make life better for migrant workers. He worked as an aide for a state representative, and spent three years after that trying to organize workers in the state's citrus groves. This was his mission. It was his calling. Today, he saw an opening to make a huge difference.
The call came from Elmer Pickens up in Washington. Pickens had known Enrico when he appeared in the Yakima Valley as a young labor organizer. Over the years, he saw Cortez as a thorn in his side, but knew that they had a lot in common on this day.
"Rico, how the hell are ya? "
"Elmer, how nice to hear from you."
"Hey, I heard about your first big splash as Senator. That bill to provide mobile tutors for the field workers' children is really inspirational. I want to do something to support it."
"Well.Elmer, I know how tight you are with your pal, Senator Puffin. Can you give him a call?"
"I can do better than that. The northwest orchard growers association has him as a keynote speaker next month. I'll make sure your bill is a big part of his presentation."
"Excellent! If they all got behind this, and if Puffin had a fire lit under his butt to push my bill, it just might have a chance!"
"Let me work the phones a little & see if I can arrange this. How are the boys?"
"Boys and girls. Maria just had twin girls last month."
"That's my good Catholic! Keep up the good work, heh, heh, heh..."
Elmer felt that things may just take a turn for the better if he can get Puffin on board with his plan. The senator has the pull and the relationships to get the Cortez initiative through, and if he was going to have to live with those new taxes on those apples, at least that revenue could give the workers some reason to return to his orchards. But he knew that he had have support from the east coast, too. It was then that he began to think orange.
Back on Capitol Hill, Sheila touched her elbow to the door frame, and curved herself to place her hip against it, and put her thumb and forefinger to her head. Senator Porkwangle was transfixed at the sight of this young, well-put-together, seductive woman who just wants to serve him as best she can...
"Senator, there's a call from Senator Puffin for you."
"Chester? What's this about, hunny?"
Ugh, Sheila smiled and tried to hide her complete disgust with Porkwangle. She doubted that he would notice either way, but he was almost done writing her reference letter for law school, anyway.
"He just says it was fruit stuff."
Porkwagle answered the phone as he waved Sheila out and watched her leave. "Chester?"
"Buster, you old lame duck! How's everything?"
"Well, you know it could be worse. At least we have total control of all three branches this time 'round. And I can look forward to lots more golf in the near future. I still have a few things I'd like to get done here, but for the most part, I'm just counting the days."
"Well, put on your senator hat for now. I have some business to discuss. Are your orange growers still missing workers since wacko got in?"
"BIG TIME, Chester. I guess it's even harder up in apple country."
"You just can't imagine. Some of my growers won't get their crops picked in time this year. There's goona to be a lot of drunk birds. I can handle drunk birds, but I want you to consider that bill from Enrico Cortez about tutors for the kids of migrant workers. Could you get behind that?"
"Goona be rough without some offsetting revenue, Chester."
"They're hitting up my growers' apples for taxes, Buster."
Buster turned white.
"What? That's not goona fly. They can't tax FRUIT...uh, unless they have to IMPORT it. Are they getting Chinese concentrate?"
"Some are. But the others are making some kick-ass cider. And a sin is a sin. I have a grower who has to separate her cider production from the rest of her apple business if she's goona have any relief. But even THEN, we're facing increased taxes all the time on this beverage. I want all future increases to go to pay for the Cortez initiative. Let those taxes help bring back our workforce."
"Well, if they're TERRIFIED of the INS, they won't come back. But I see your point, Chester. And I'm in. I can work my warm circle & see if we can't get enough votes to get that Cortez bill through."
"Buster, you know I always appreciate your support. Say hi to Maggie for me, OK?"
"Yep, will do. Bye Chester."
Porkwangle had a pretty good idea how his bathroom bill was getting passed. He reached for his trusty phone book, which was thoroughly dog-eared, and would be something for the Smithsonian some time down the road....