Money as a scorekeeper was thought never to fail,
But does it still work when one ends up in jail?
"Well, what do you plan to do now?" thundered Maude Ann to the stricken Guiseppe. "We have no money left and I have a house full of guests to feed."
Guiseppe looked up at her with a blank expression, the devastation of his soul showing plainly on his face. He started to make a half hearted reply when the front door burst open and in trooped Hilga, Lars, and the twins.
"Well, I'm glad you are finally home," she complained, "we have a need to talk to you about, and you are always away."
Before he could respond, she swept on, "You see, Guiseppe, we have a little problem that maybe you could help us with. We were shopping in the Village and well, to tell you the truth, ...Oh, Stefan and Juliana, could you please just sit still and quit trying to pick the fleas off the dogs? Stefan, stop pulling your sister's hair immediately. Honestly, now, please go outside at once while we chat. They are such bright children," she explained to no one in particular.
They both got up, made faces at each other and at Maude Ann, who raised a hand as if to swat them, which they easily avoided, of course, and finally, they trooped noisily out. Seeing she had center stage at last, Hilga smiled brightly at Guiseppe and Maude Ann, and warmed to her tale of need, "Well, anyway, about our little situation. We found a beautiful new ox cart offered by this desperate little dealer down in the Village, who has not had a sale in months, and he will let us have it for only $5,000 dollars. Then," she gushed quickly, "we found a merchant ship who is leaving tomorrow for 'The Kingdom Across The Big Pond,' and the captain will ship it home for us for only $1,500 dollars. What a bargain, do you not agree? And, er, ah, we are just a little short."
"Well, we seem to have a little problem here, too," hedged Guiseppe, "but just how much short are you?" his curiosity getting the best of him.
"Oh, well, let me see. Lars, just how much do we need?" Hilga asked her husband. "$6,500 dollars" stated Lars flatly.
"A little short, indeed," roared Maude Ann. "As I calculate, that is the whole amount you need. What a nerve! Are you going to tell them, or am I?" she glared at Guiseppe.
"What do you mean?" Hilga snapped indignantly. Fearing that her new ox cart was vanishing into thin air, she whined, "What's going on here?"
"Well, I do not quite know how to tell you this, but...." Guiseppe was grappling for words, when a loud knock came at the door.
BAM! BAM! BAM! The house shook with the force of the loud knocking. "Open up in there, Guv'nor, it is officers of the King here!" Lars was closest to the door, and yanked it open. There, in the door way, stood a constable and a deputy with an official looking paper rolled up into a scroll.
"Are you Guiseppe, the used chariot dealer and glockenspiel repairman?" he inquired.
"You know who I am," Guiseppe answered as patiently as he could when he really wanted to scream, "What now?" Instead, he cleared his throat, pulled himself up as tall as he could, and asked, "How may I serve you, officers?"
"We are making inquiries about one tall, blue eyed fellow named Jonas, a Tax Collector, who disappeared sometime yesterday, we think. His wife filed a missing person's report on him and seems frantic to find out where he is, and if he is all right, because her five kids need food and the new wee one is due to be born any minute now.
Naturally, she is right desperate to find him quick! When we asked round the Village, as to his whereabouts, several folks told us they had seen him driving away from your house in a brand new ox cart with your wife. They were next seen at the Hog's Jowl Inn, where they had stopped for a 'quick one,' and left there holding hands and laughing like fools. Bors overheard them say they had all the money they needed now, and were headed for 'The Sunny Kingdom In The South,' for a fine old time, and some fun in the sun."
"Now, Guiseppe," continued the constable, "His Majesty's finest put our heads together and figured out that the money must have come from here. Your wife and you have been spending money hand over ox cart and your mother-in-law invested twelve bags of gold, TWELVE BAGS, with the Wicked Weaver Brothers, who, by the way, left town in the dead of night. What have you got to say for yourself, mister?"
"Well, constable, I guess there is no point lying about it. Most of what you say is true," mumbled Guiseppe, his head in his hands.
"What? You have no money? That is the 'little problem' you spoke of?" gasped Hilga, who had been listening to all this with rapt attention until the horrible truth dawned on her. "What about our new ox cart? What about the rest of our vacation here? What about...."
"Hilga, will you PLEASE be quiet," snapped Lars glaring at his wife. Shocked, she said no more, sank down on the couch and burst into tears. A flea jumped up and bit her leg, whereupon she ran sobbing from the room, with Lars close behind.
Guiseppe and Maude Ann stared at her disappearing back and then back at the constable. "Well, officer, what is your point?" inquired Maude Ann in her best take charge voice. "Guiseppe, just sit down there and let me handle this. Now, constable, and deputy, just what can we do about this unfortunate situation to help you?" she smiled brightly.
"The point, madam," he began sternly, "is that vast sums of money have flowed like a river from this domicile in many different directions." He opened the scroll and looked at the notes he had made. "Ah yes, Bors said that you have helped him many times to make his mortgage payments. His Majesty's chariot driver and guard said that you gave him a practically new chariot and told him to pay for it when he could. Your sister and her family have been buying out the shops in the Village, and she let it slip that you had given her the money. Everyone, it seems, except his Royal Majesty has benefited from your riches, which we do not yet know if you earned or stole. So, which is it? Earned or stolen?"
Shocked beyond good sense, Guiseppe blurted out, "Oh, I would never steal from anyone. God gave me the money to help people with, you see. Honestly, an angel delivered it, one bag a night for 20 nights," he explained to the astonished constable and the incredulous Maude Ann.
"Guiseppe, shut up! You will be the ruination of this whole family. Do you think I want the entire Village to know that my daughter has married a nut-case? An angel, indeed! Who do you think will believe that," she scoffed.
Then, her face lit up and she said, "But that's it! That is your excuse! Constable, this poor man is mad, can you not see that? He is not responsible for his words nor his actions either," she concluded, very satisfied with her impromptu defense of her foolish son-in-law.
"Mad as a hatter, he may be," agreed the constable shaking his head, "But, we calculate he still owes the Kingdom about $50,000 dollars in back taxes. Who knows, it might even be more? However, the King in his generosity, is offering to settle for that amount, and if it is paid promptly, His Majesty and will cease and desist all efforts to send Guiseppe to jail."
Turning to Guiseppe, he continued, "You sir, have 24 hours to remit this amount to the King's Chief Tax Collector, or you will find yourself in residence at the Village Jail!"
With that, he doffed his cap, nodded to the deputy and they both turned smartly on their heels, and went out the door. Stefan threw a rock across the front porch and narrowly missed hitting the deputy in the head. The constable cuffed him on the ear as they passed the lively little boy, and they both left in their black and white chariot.
Back inside, Guiseppe was sitting in the chair with his mouth open and a glazed look in his eyes. "You are a fool, Guiseppe. A fool!" bellowed Maude Ann, "and like I have told you so many times, 'A fool and his money are soon parted,' and that is the truth!"
Someone else knocked at the door. BAM BAM BAM! "What now?" snorted Maude Ann, jerking the door open. There stood a messenger, hat in hand, "'King's Messenger Service,' madam. I have another message here for Guiseppe. That will be two dollars, please."
Maude Ann searched through her apron pockets and finally found a coin, which she slapped into the messenger's palm. He opened the scroll and read,
"We have found a lawyer, we are warning you;
send us the money promptly, or we will sue!"
Signed Winifred and Penelope.
"What is the matter with those girls?" moaned Guiseppe? "How can they possibly sue me? What have I ever done to them?"
"Well, I told you what it says in 'The Book'," sniffed Maude Ann, judgmentally. "A man has to take care of those in his own family. They are probably going to sue you on grounds of Felony Relative Abandonment. It would serve you right too, for not sending them the money the first time they asked."
She stormed off to the kitchen, leaving Guiseppe dazed and disoriented. He got up from the chair and stumbled through the kitchen and out the back door to the pasture. He paced around, trying to pray and repent of his sins. He walked round and about aimlessly for awhile, but he just couldn't seem to get anywhere. So, he finally turned around and went back to the fruit cellar, where he searched again to be sure that there was no gold left. Not one coin could he find. He threw himself down on the floor, put his head on a bag of apples, and decided to stay there until he got an answer from God. He drifted off to sleep, dreaming he was out in the desert. A storm cloud appeared and in his dream the heavens opened up and gold poured down from the sky.
He awoke with a start to find that Stefan was pouring a jug of water over his head. "Come on in the house," the child grinned. "Things are getting hot in there. Me mum wants to talk to ya."
Wearily, he trudged across the back yard from the fruit cellar to the kitchen. He noticed that the sun was high in the sky as if it were morning. "Why, I must have slept out there all night," he murmured to himself.
"Guiseppe, quit talking to yourself and get in here," thundered Maude Ann. "Where the devil have you been? We have looked everywhere for you!"
"I guess I fell asleep in the fruit cellar," explained Guiseppe sheepishly, looking around. "I went out there to pray, but I could not. Why are all these suitcases sitting in the middle of the floor? Where are you going, Hilga? Lars?"
The living room floor was covered with bags, suitcases, valises, and Hilga had on her new chartreuse silk traveling suit and hat with matching boots. She looked coldly at her brother and sniffed, "Well, we know when our welcome has worn out. We are going back home where we belong."
"But Hilga," stammered Guiseppe, "You do not have to leave. It's just that I have no more money."
"Well, that is certainly a pity," she agreed. "Meanwhile, I think we will stop at Lar's sister's house on the way back. She has always said she would like for us to visit. Well, if you will load our bags on the ox cart, we will be off."
Guiseppe struggled with the bags and valises out to the waiting cart, where he and the driver managed to load them all onto the back. "Children, come along. And, oh, by the way, if that angel fellow comes back, dear brother, please let me know. Well, Ta Ta for now." And, away they all went.
"Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say," Maude Ann declared from the front door way.
As their ox cart left with the load of relatives, a black and white chariot pulled up coming from the direction of the Village Jail. As soon as it stopped, His Majesty's finest, the constable and his deputy, who had been driving, jumped out.
As soon as they went inside and closed the door, the constable opened up a large scroll and announced,
"By order and decree of His Royal Majesty,
King Ferdinand The Glorious,
Monarch and Supreme Ruler of 'The Kingdom By The Sea,'
It is hereby demanded from Guiseppe, Used Chariot Dealer and Glockenspiel Repairman, immediate payment of back taxes owed the aforementioned Kingdom in the amount of $50,000 dollars. Failure to pay this amount due immediately, shall result in said defendant being hauled away to the Village Jail where he shall stay throughout his remaining days on Earth until and unless he pays every last coin he owes His Royal Majesty. So let it be written; so let it be done."
"Well, Sir, do you have the money for us?" asked the constable sternly?
"No, Sir, I do not. Do you not remember that the Wicked Weaver Brothers deceived my Mother-in-law into investing most of the money in their fraudulent scheme, and then Jonas, the Tax Collector, ran away with my wife and the rest of what the angel brought. I am totally without funds. Broke! Busted! Bankrupt! Why, I do not know how we will continue to eat, er, Maude Ann and I."
"Do not worry about yourself, Sir," admonished the deputy, grimly. "You will be eating at the King's expense. We must ask you to come with us, sir. You are under arrest for tax evasion, a serious felony charge in 'The Kingdom By The Sea,' and you will be incarcerated in the Village Jail until the debt is fully paid. Come along, now, Sir. Watch your step as you get in to the black and white." And, off they went in a cloud of dust leaving Maude Ann staring incredulously after them.
Florence, who was standing outside the window, enjoying every action and savoring every word, nearly fell down in her eagerness to get in the front door of her neighbor's house. "What happened? Where are they taking him?" she gasped breathlessly.
"They took him to jail, you fool," snapped Maude Ann. "Fools, I am surrounded by fools," she observed crossly before going inside. The front door slammed in Florence's face.
"Well, it sure got a bit thick around here in short order, eh what?" Florence grinned to herself as she slowly walked back to her own little cottage. "I wonder if the peace and quiet will keep me awake nights?"
To be continued....
Lenny and Jan Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
Forward to The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter One
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter Two
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter Three
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter Four
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter Five
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter Six
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter Seven
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter Eight
The Man Who Asked For A Million Dollars, Chapter Nine
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter Eleven
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter Twelve
The Glory Road
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