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 Category:  Humor Fiction
  Posted: February 3, 2018      Views: 147

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 ABOUT
MARK VALENTINE 
"Like every book I never wrote, it is by far the best book I've ever written."

G. K. Chesterton

He is a top ranked author at the #34 position.

He is an accomplished script writer and is currently at the #6 spot on the rankings.

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Byron Keats, CPA
"Meet A Fanstorian, Vol. 2" by Mark Valentine



 
Welcome to the second installment in Meet A Fanstorian, a series that looks at the lives and ouevres of lesser-known Fanstorians. Having learned my lesson from the first installment, let me say up front that the reason they are lesser known is because they don’t exist. Today we meet Byron Keats. Given his name and his pedigree (he is the great, great, great, great, grandson of the poet John Keats), it is no surprise that we should find him on the Fanstory roster.
 
While John was clearly the most famous of his line, other Keats gained some level of fame with their verses. Byron’s father, Perry Keats, brought the family tradition to Madison Avenue. You may remember some of his ads for hair care products from the 1970’s, including his famous Ode on Grecian Formula. Here’s a snippet to jog your memory:
 
When old age shall turn strands of brown to gray
Thou canst retain thy vigor and stand tall
Behold this product that to thee doth say;
Dark hair is youth, youth, dark hair – that is all
 ye know on earth and all ye need to know
 
 
Much to his family’s dismay, Byron showed no interest in poetry, choosing to major in accounting upon his enrollment at Iowa State University. Byron recalls the strife upon informing his family: “It was all; very ‘Billy Elliot’. I felt a lot of pressure from my father to follow the family tradition. But you know, sometimes you just gotta blaze your own trail and follow your passion.”
 
In Byron’s case, that passion was chartered accountancy. “From the time I got my first calculator as a child, I knew this is what I wanted to do. My mom would take me with her to the grocery store. I would go over every item on the receipt to make sure it totaled up right. Customers behind us in line hated me.”
 
Though he eschewed writing as a career, Byron placated his father by joining Fanstory. As it would turn out, his early experience with being an object of scorn at the grocery store would prove to be a good training ground for his Fanstory experience. His debut poem, Subchapter S Corporation was submitted as an entry to one of the site’s many love poem contests. Here it is in its entirety:
 
I love you, Subchapter S Corporation.
You limit liability by passing on risk to individual shareholders.
 Also, you allow corporations to use the cash, rather than the accrual, method of accounting.
 
 
The reviews were merciless. Almost every one pointed out the obvious -- this sucked.  One reviewer suggested that he name this new form the “Piss Sonnet”, as in, it should be placed in a urinal so that people could piss on it. It really wasn’t a poem in any sense of the word. It completely lacked meter, rhyme, imagery, and had no artistic merit whatsoever. These shortcomings would haunt Byron throughout his short-lived poetry career.
 
Part of the problem was that Byron had led a fairly uneventful life. He had known neither poverty nor wealth in his twenty-five years. He had never travelled to exotic lands, never walked on the wild side, never been in love. That last one was about to change.
 
Her name was Maria Contadora. She came to work at Ticonderoga and Faber (the second largest accounting firm in Ottumwa, Iowa) in April, 2012. Byron felt that hers was the most beautiful, the most poetic name he had ever heard. If having her as a muse couldn’t fix his poetic impotence, nothing could. Byron fell for her immediately. He was completely, head-over-heels, in love. There was however, one problem. One very large problem. Maria worked in Accounts Receivable, while Byron was in Accounts Payable. For those of you unfamiliar with the culture of accounting, think Montagues and Capulets. The two groups couldn’t even eat lunch at the same table.
 
Byron would not be deterred, neither by cultural taboos, nor by the fact that he sucked at poetry. He wrote a love poem, this time with a human being as its object. (In addition to the aforementioned Subchapter S corporations, he had previously written a sonnet to the Texas Instruments BA ii financial calculator).
 
With a real live woman to inspire him, Byron was surprised at the ease with which the words flowed from his pen: “Maria. I just met a girl named Maria.” It took Byron a moment to realize that he was plagiarizing a song from West Side Story. “Given the Jets and Sharks nature of our circumstances though, you can see how that could happen,” he explained, “luckily I realized my error before I sent it to her.”

Byron went back to the drawing board, and this time came up with something original.
 
Come, my love and let me audit you.
Open your ledger to me and I will pore over every entry,
For only you can reconcile the imbalance in my heart.
 
 
Suffice to say that it was not much of an improvement on his previous works. Nevertheless he screwed his courage to the sticking place, put the poem in an email to Maria, while simultaneously posting it to Fanstory.  To this day it is unclear how, but the email was leaked to the corporate brass. Some suspect the Russians, others, the Clintons. Regardless of the source of the leak, management’s reaction to it was swift and decisive. Byron was told in no uncertain terms to stick to his own kind. To make sure, this taboo relationship progressed no further, Maria was transferred to the Cedar Rapids branch. From the depths of his despair, Byron was moved to enter a 5-7-5 contest on the subject of lost love.
 
 
Maria is gone.
And with her all my dreams
COME AND GET ME TOO CHINO!
 
 
He was, of course, disqualified as it was not in fact a 5-7-5, but rather a 5-7-7. The irony of the DQ was not lost on Byron -- he was an accountant whose poetry woes stemmed from an inability to count syllables.
 
There would be time to worry about that later. The immediate task at hand was to find Maria. Byron quit his job, moved to Cedar Rapids, tracked her down, and asked her for a date. To his astonishment, she said yes. The relationship moved forward at lightning speed. Byron recalls that first week; “I should have known something was amiss when she suggested opening a joint checking account after our first date. I guess I was just too love-struck to see.” In addition to opening a joint checking account, Byron gave Maria a key to his apartment, and let her drive his 2012 Honda Accord (“The Official Sedan of Accountants”).
 
One week later, Byron’s car, belongings, and bank account were gone, and with them, Maria. “I guess it’s true what they say about Accounts Receivable women.” It was then that he started drinking -- bad for his health, but it did improve his poetry – a little bit. From the depths of his despair, came the following:
 
 
When you left I realized
Your love for me was amortized.
Your interest in me first seemed high,
But it was lowered by and by.
And once the principal was paid,
The cost of love largely defrayed,
Then you, no longer in my debt,
Walked out the door without regret.
And now I feel alone and used
Like a shell company incorporated in the Cayman Islands for the sole purpose of hiding assets thereby reducing one’s tax liability in accordance with the Tax Reform Law of 1986.
 
 
“I thought it was an apt analogy,” Byron explained. “It’s only in retrospect that I can see that perhaps the wordiness of the last line disrupted the flow a bit.”
 
His small Fanstory following deserted him, but not before first subjecting him to one last round of scorn and ridicule. One Fanstorian mocked him in a parody of George Michael’s Careless Whisper, replacing the lyric,
 
I’m never gonna dance again, guilty feet ain’t got no rhythm
 Though it’s easy to pretend I know you’re not a fool

with,

He’ll never write romance again, Byron Keats ain’t got no rhythm
Take his paper and his pen, The guy is such a tool
 
 
Devastated, he closed his Fanstory account and, as so many do, he went to the Canadian woods to do some soul searching. It was there that he had an encounter that would change his life: he met a poet named Gordon Trumbull. “Gordon seemed to have everything I lacked: rhythm, a beard, a love life. In short, he was a man. Well, I decided that I could be a man too. No, check that, I decided that dammit, I could be a man too – and then I spit, just for good measure.”
 
Byron wrote his father to let him know that he was giving up poetry for good. He would become a prose writer, and not just any prose, but the manliest genre of prose – he would become a noir writer. He would explore the world of hard-boiled accountants. Guys who are as quick with their fists as they are with a calculator. Guys who are not climbing the accounting ladders at any of the Big 4 accounting firms, but who are rather lone wolves, hanging their shingles in the seedier parts of towns and handling the accounts that others won’t. Guys who have traded in their green visors for fedoras. Hard drinking accountants who have been around the block a time or two and have the scars to show it.
 
Byron opened a new Fanstory account under the pen name Dashiell Chandler. His first short story, Dead Men Don’t Itemize, earned him a Story of the Month nomination. Take a look at the opening paragraphs:
 
Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Established in 1838, its nickname is the ‘City of 5 Seasons’. It’s on Interstate 380. It is home to 131,127 people, 74 parks, 3 colleges and 2 hospitals. The average annual precipitation is 34.66 inches. Yeah, I know all the numbers. I also know that sometimes those numbers don’t add up – that’s where I come in. I’m Jake Cruncher, Certified Public Accountant.
 
It was a Tuesday morning, a little after ten. That’s about as early as the day starts for me. I’m not much of a nose-to-the-grindstone type -- ear-to-the-pillow is more my style. I was in my office sipping a cup of joe, when there was a knock at the door.
 
“Door’s open. Come in.”
 
She came in. She was a blonde, the kind of blonde that makes old men clutch their hearts and priests clutch their rosaries. I didn’t need a ledger to tell me that this dame had assets – real tangible assets. The kind of assets you could bounce a quarter off of. I knew right away that those assets were going to be my liability -- as in, if I wasn’t careful, I was liable to do something stupid.
 
“Good morning, Miss. What can I do you for?”
 
“How ‘bout you buy me dinner and we’ll take it from there.”
 
She was saucier than a slab of ribs at a Kansas City barbeque. “How about we stick to accounting.” I don’t know why, but then I added, “for now.”
 
“I need a good pencil pusher and they tell me you’re the best in the business. You are a pencil pusher, aren’t you?”
 
“It’s not a term we accountants embrace.”
 
“What do you embrace?”
 
“Like I said ma’am. Let’s stick to accounting”
 
This time she added the “for now.”
 
I gave her a wry smile. She continued. “I want to learn about some investment opportunities.”
 
“OK.”
 
“By the way, I meant no disrespect with the ‘pencil pusher’ remark. I didn’t know it was an offensive term. I actually think it’s kind of endearing, and I’ll bet you’re good at it. Yeah, I’ll bet you push that pencil real good.”
 
My wry smile re-emerged.
 
She quickly added, “I know, we’ll stick to accounting – for now.”
 
We talked about investment opportunities. I suggested a mutual fund.
 
She put on her best ‘dumb blonde’ face and asked with feigned innocence, “Now if I understand mutual funds those could be front load or rear load – am I right? I’m open to either - which one do you prefer?”
 
“I prefer that my clients not play games with me. Now, what’s the real story dollface?”
 
“OK, OK. You win. I need to stash some dough in a place where Uncle Sam won’t find it. Can you help?”
 
“Sounds like you’re looking for a tax shelter.”
 
“Yeah, that’s the ticket, a tax shelter. Maybe a holding company. I could use a little holding company, how about you? Whaddya say you stop by my place tonight and we’ll see what we can figure out? I’ve got a 4-drawer file cabinet full of documents. I’d be most grateful if you went through my drawers.”
 
I gave her a reprimanding look.
 
“What? We said we’d stick to accounting for now. Tonight is later.”
 
I didn’t respond.
 
“Strong silent type, eh? Well, I’ll take your silence as a yes. Here’s my address- see you at eight. Oh, and be sure to bring your pocket protector.”
 
 
You can guess the rest – noir accounting stories tend to be pretty formulaic. An anonymous tipster drops the dime on the dame and tells the accountant that she’s been pulling the Chinese Squeeze all along. The accountant realizes that her advances were just a way to distract him from the fact that she had juked the numbers. In the climactic scene he confronts her.  She tells him that if he keeps mum, she’ll split the money with him. She swears that she loves him and suggests that they lam it together, but he tells her ‘no dice’ and makes it clear that he’s not gonna play the sap, not for her or for any dame. He picks up the blower to call the heat, but before he can make the call, she pulls out a gat and gets the drop on him. Just when it looks like it’s curtains for the CPA, he distracts the dame with the old Shanghai Spider trick, and when she turns to look, he slugs her in the kisser. The cops come, and, as they’re about to haul her off to the pokey, the CPA says something like “It’s a shame it all turned out this way. I would have liked to have gone through those drawers.” Then he puts on his trench coat and leaves without a backwards glance. Inevitably there’s a cold drizzle outside. The accountant turns up his collar walks off into the foggy night.
 
Meanwhile, no reader born after 1950 has any idea what they’re talking about. 
 
Formulaic as it was, it was a clean start for Byron, um, I mean Dashiell. He finished last in the Story of the Month voting, but the encouragement he received from his reviews was enough to inspire him to write more in this vein. Tough Guys Wear Green Visors, and The Maltese Journal Entry soon followed and chronicled the further adventures of Jake Cruncher. These posts won Dashiell (nee Byron) a few more fans. He currently ranks 74th (with a bullet) in the Short Story rankings.
 
At this rate, he won’t be “lesser-known” for long. 

 

Recognized

Author Notes
To drive the foul taste from your palate, here's the last lines of John Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn":

When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty," that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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