Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Rikki Tikki Tavi

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).


Fran said...

What a load off your shoulders! Taxes are like root canals- only thing good about them is to be done with them.
I know you were sequestered in the tax dungeon sparring with those details for quite some time.
We finished our taxes as well, sent out the part of the side that owes us money so we can give it all and then some to the part that will take it away. All that work, only to have to pay an entity of government more money. Where is the fun in that????

Like I said, the only joy was in being done with it.
I swear, the people who apply for writing tax code must fill out an application that asks
"Do you state things in a most confusing and convoluted way that is hard to understand"?
If so, you are awarded the job.

I have slogged through whole paragraphs of tax jargon, only to be more confused.
I am looking for a yes or no answer, and they blather on in ways that make no sense.
What the hell does that mean???

Those annoying side track math mazes.... fill out all this information only to find out you do not qualify, or you can only submit one of these forms, but not both.

We finalized the experience feeling like a mouse in a maze. Shredded a bunch of forms that were dead ends. Now considering a root canal to cheer me up.

Fran said...

BTW ~ Great Song!

an average patriot said...

Hi Red glad you conquered the snakes! I always enjoyed Rikki Tikki Tavi my sons did too. Here you go

D.K. Raed said...

If it makes you feel any better, the tax code is undeciferable even for accountants. It's a conglomeration of tack-ons and hole-closers and precedents and challenges, truly a maze. That's why when you've got an unclear situation and you have plenty of back-up for your position, many accountants will tell you to go for it and let the IRS sort it out. Root canals cost less and at least you have something to show for it afterwards!

I had to put up Donovan. He lived in Desert Hot Springs when I was living in Palm Springs. One day, my friends & I decided to ride our bikes around there hoping to run into him. After we got tired of cycling, never having seen Donovan, my friend said, well what would you say to him even if he did appear? I said, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi! For some reason, that cracked us up all the way back home!

D.K. Raed said...

Avg Patriot:
Oh see, I knew there must be other Rikki Tikki fans out there! That cartoon version was sweet. Thanks! I bet your sons liked the snake-killing aspect (boys!). Me, I liked that Rikki was so quick & smart & curious & protective of his family. When my mom used to read me the story, she made the rikkk-tikkk-tikkk sound in such a funny way, I always laughed!

Fran said...

Off topic: I finally got around to watching the Lennon film . Wow! That was a nice gift. What a time!

D.K. Raed said...

We all shine on ... like the moon and stars and the sun!

Fran said...

= )