“Drinking Tea” by Lei Xue (hand painted porcelain)
Cody the bartender placed the home brew before IRS investigator, Greg Harkness. The mug was beautifully wrought in blue and white Chinese porcelain. Greg never expected something like that in the little town of Collins, Louisiana. “Wow, Cody!” he exclaimed, admiring the art and workmanship. “You didn’t need to break out the fine china.”
Cody shrugged. “We got bunches of ’em.”
“You shipped them from China?”
“Nope. Didn’t want ’em anyway. It just happened.”
Cody crossed his arms. “You investigatin’ me now Mister Taxman? Gimme a break!”
“C’mon, I’m just curious. You gotta admit you don’t always see china mugs in bars.”
Cody relaxed a bit. “It was all just an accident anyway. ”
“Oh right. Accidental delivery.”
“Nope. They weren’t shipped.”
“Okay…” Greg waited.
Cody looked away, grimacing. “It’s weird.”
Greg sipped the tasty brew. “Well that sounds interesting. Tell me.”
“You’ll never believe it.”
“You gotta see it for yourself. Just find Pauly Goodman out on Piller Road.”
“The mugs came from Pauly?”
“Yeah. Sort of.”
At the motel, Greg looked up Goodman. The alligator hunter made a reasonable living selling his taxidermy on eBay. The IRS database reported no red flags or concerns. Still, Greg wanted to see what his china story was.
At Pauly’s ramshackle house, he noticed something odd. Blue and white china pieces lined the porch railing. A magnificent porcelain rocking chair gathered dust in one corner. A ceramic hunting dog slept beside the steps.
Pauly welcomed Greg into the house, especially when he saw the 12-pack Greg carried. Inside the house numerous stuffed animals graced the decor, but among them porcelain beer cans, china pizza boxes, and ceramic animals filled every nook. Despite the heat, Pauly was covered head to toe in clothing. Even his glass frames were coated in cloth. As he drank a beer, he began to tell his story.
“It started at twenty. Just a few things at first, but then more and more. Pretty soon, I couldn’t touch nothin’ that wasn’t cloth or water and, luckily, toilet paper. My Daddy kicked me out the house, said God cursed me. I cain’t be with no woman ’cause she’d just turn into china.”
“So…everything you touch turns into this blue and white china? With all the Chinese writing and pictures and all?”
“Yep. I don’t even know how to write no Chinese, neither. It just happens.”
“But what about the beer you’re drinking?”
“My insides are normal. It’s my skin that changes stuff.”
Incredulous, Greg placed a pen on the table. “Can you change that?”
Pauly shrugged. He removed a glove and carefully touched only the pen. In moments, it became the world’s first porcelain Cross Pen.
Greg nearly fainted with shock. “I just can’t believe it!”
“Yeah? Check this out.” Pauly led him into a shed. Inside, hundreds of porcelain items rested. Many were formerly stuffed animals rendered in perfect ceramic detail. The finely detailed hairs and feathers could easily break. Ceramic engine parts, license plates, and picnic baskets sat beside them.
Greg took pictures of incredible sight. “My god, Pauly! You’re selling these on eBay, right?”
“Blue and white china is expensive and popular. ”
“Naw! It’s just trash from a curse.”
“No! These items are totally unique. You could make millions!”
Later in the day and back at the apartment, Greg made a mistake. He sent the pictures he took to a fellow IRS investigator, just to share something interesting. That friend forwarded the pictures to friends, and they sent it too… In hours, the entire Baton Rouge IRS office knew about it. The following day, Investigations Director Butts arrived.
“You never thought to report this?” asked Butts over the phone.
“He didn’t craft them sir,” explained Greg. “We can’t tax a man for having a curse!”
“Oh, I heard about your fairy tale, Mr. Harkness,” scoffed Butts. “I’ll be handling this from here on out. This man owes the government and I intend to collect!”
That was the last anyone ever heard of Mr. Butts. Greg got re-located to Alaska, but he never forgot about Pauly. While sitting in a restaurant watching Bald Eagles fly by, he looked up unique china figurines on eBay. That’s when he learned what became of Pauly and Mr. Butts. The first item in the list said it all.
Unique blue and white china figurine! Valued at $100,000. This life-sized sculpture of a taxman is beautifully detailed. Note the exquisitely crafted look of shock on his face.
Written for the Grammar Ghoul Press: http://www.grammarghoulpress.com/gg-writing-challenge-68/