Twenty-five years ago, I started my own business. It was the best of times and worst of times. There were good years and lean years, but even the worst years gave me the satisfaction of succeeding or failing all by myself.
We formally dissolved the company last year. This weekend I completed and filed its final tax returns. While I've got mixed emotions over the company's demise, I'm not sorry to leave all the legal rigamarole behind. Let's just say the tax bureaucracy is alive and well. It thrives on mind-numbing detail. In that sense, it was a fair fight. No one can out-detail me!
The final tax battle consumed me for the last few months, but now that it's behind me, I find myself feeling a bit like Rikki-Tikki-Tavi. I fought the snakes, and now I can finally live at peace in my garden (and maybe even blog a little more)! You remember Rikki Tikki, don't you? The mongoose in Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book"?
While I loved the many characters in The Jungle Book, it was Rikki Tikki who most captured my childhood fancies. Kipling must've named him for the high-pitched chittering sound mongooses are known for. He was described as both cat-like and weasel-like. Rikki Tikki was agile, cunning and fearless in defeating and killing snakes.
Kipling's Rikki-Tikki-Tavi story centers on a great war Rikki fought all by himself. He killed three venomous snakes before they could murder Rikki's adoptive family. Two of the snakes were deadly cobras, named Nag and Nagaina. At one point, Rikki has to enter the snake's dark burrow to finish his red-eyed dance of death.
Kipling's frightening descriptive poem of that underground battle is burned in my brain (the only poem in the story):
At the hole where he went in
Red-Eye called to Wrinkle-Skin.
Hear what little Red-Eye saith:
"Nag, come up and dance with death!"
Eye to eye and head to head, (Keep the measure, Nag.)
This shall end when one is dead, (At thy pleasure, Nag.)
Turn for turn and twist for twist, (Run and hide thee, Nag.)
Hah! The hooded Death has missed! (Woe betide thee, Nag!)
If you're interested in reading Rikki's epic story, click here. Warning: it only pretends to be a children's tale.
OK, so much for bloodlust. As the great Joseph Campbell might say, Rikki Tikki Tavi's story is a standard hero mythology. While I may feel a bit heroic after slogging through this year's tax mess, I certainly don't pretend to heroism on any scale. Kipling says that cobras actually fear mongooses. Is it possible that the IRS fears the taxpayer? Now wouldn't that be funny?
Donovan (remember him?) sang about Rikki-Tikki-Tavi :
Just a song from the past ... Nothing to see in the vid ... Gotta look inside-a yourself ... No one will kill-a your snakes for you!
As I finished conquering the IRS snakes this weekend, I could barely suppress a little Rikki Tikki chitter. I may have done a modified mongoose red-eyed dance at the post office today (extending my long neck and bouncing my head as I stuffed the tax returns into the narrow mail slot). If I did, I'm sure the postal workers understood. If they didn't, they should re-read The Jungle Book (that's a link to the entire book published online).