On a bright Monday morning, a day before tax returns were due, I bumped into my ersatz friend Marshbaum who was placing a change container at the Gas-High Mini-mart on Low Octane and Greed avenues.
“March of Dimes?” I asked.
“Dimes. Quarters. Ten-dollar bills. Whatever.”
Since he misunderstood my question, I tried it another way.
“What charity? Humane Society? MS? Veterans Relief?”
“Even better. A museum.”
“Science museum for kids? Art museum?”
“Not even close.”
“I’m not playing 20 Questions. Put the danged label on your change can.” From a tattered vinyl briefcase, Marshbaum took out a peelable label proclaiming donations for the “Marshbaum Museum of American Culture.”
“You can drop your spare change into it now.”
“What’s the scam?” I asked suspiciously.
“No scam. Legitimate museum. Just like the Historic Voodoo Museum, the International Toaster Museum, and Britney Spears’ one.”
“Britney Spears has a museum?”
“Not really a museum, but four rooms in a museum in her hometown of Kentwood, Louisiana. Been there more than a decade. Even has a scale model replica of the stage of her HBO concert and a full-scale replica of her pre-teen bedroom.”
“Just because she can dance, flash skin, and lip sync at the same time doesn’t warrant a museum. And in your case, even if you do build a monument, it will remain as empty as your own life.”
“I shall build it, and they will come.”
“They will come and be taken.”
“I got credibility,” Marshbaum said, wounded by my skepticism. “I took first place in Air Guitar at the county fair. If I had a gaggle of marketing geniuses and choreographers, I’d be bumping and grinding before every teen, making millions, and creating designer labels.”
“I doubt you’d have even enough to fill a small case.”
“I think I’ll have three sections. Just like the Queen of Bubblegum Pop. Teething years. Mouseketeer years. Pop star–”
“Marshbaum! You weren’t ever a Mouseketeer.”
“I watched them. I’m donating my TV set. It’s the same age as Britney.”
“And how do you justify your pop star section?” I asked sarcastically.
“I eat Pop Tarts all the time. I should have a used box somewhere.”
“Mold has no value outside a lab.”
“IRS doesn’t think so.”
“The IRS may be moldy, but I doubt–” I didn’t even have to finish the sentence. Revelation and french horns played all at once. “It is a scam, isn’t it! Most people have yard sales. You’re donating junk to a bogus museum and taking tax deductions.”
“And you think Miss Oops-I-Did-It-Again isn’t? She’s a one percenter who have found loopholes in loopholes to tax cheat the people. Probably pays less tax than the person who stuffs her into her costumes. Their whole philosophy is Gimme More. And why should we hold it against her till the end of time? She’s probably getting tax deductions for her traffic tickets and marriage certificates. Probably a half-fortune for her clothes. She has more costumes than an elementary school at Halloween. I mean where else would she put all that drek and get paid for it?”
“Are you really serious about this scam?”
“From the bottom of my broken heart.”
[Walter Brasch is an award-winning syndicated columnist. His latest book is the critically-acclaimed social issues comedy, Before the First Snow, available in hardcover or as an ebook through http://www.greeleyandstone.com or amazon.]