Carl Wyant
Carl Wyant

Jimmy Brown and the Lemonade Stand

Originally published in the Whangarei Report, October 1999.

Jimmy Brown was a flaxen ten-year-old who lived in a pleasant tree-lined neighbourhood with his parents. Just down the street was a quaint wee village called Merryvale, which was the hub of the local universe and the cause of considerable pedestrian traffic.

Now, it so happened that in Jimmy's back yard were several lemon trees, with limbs bowed to the ground with fat healthy lemons. So Jimmy, being an enterprising little fellow, added pedestrian traffic plus lemons and came up with dollar signs. He would open a lemonade stand.

So he built a rickety little table, got an old tablecloth from his mother, a large pitcher, also from his mother, and some paper cups, which he paid for with his lawn-mowing money, and went into business. He sold the lemonade at 75 cents a cup, which, minus the cost of sugar and paper cups, netted him 60 cents per cup.

Business was good and on average he sold 20 cups a day, which netted $12 a day, which meant $84 a week if he worked every day. "Gosh," he mused as he banked his first week's pay, "free enterprise is a really cool thing."

Then one day a couple of grown-ups from the City Council came and told him that he could not run his business without a Vendor's Licence, which would cost $50. So he paid for the Vendor's Licence and was saddened to see his $84 profit suddenly dwindle to $34. But being a determined little chap he pressed on, sure that he would soon recover his loses.

The next day, however, two more grown-ups from the City Council arrived, looking VERY grown-up with their white lab coats and clipboards. They were Building Inspectors. They told Jimmy that his makeshift table was unsafe, pointing out that it might collapse and injure someone. It needed some diagonal bracing, they said. So Jimmy said, OK, he'd put in some diagonal bracing. But they said that before he could undertake this work he would need a Building Permit, which would cost $75.

But seeing as how Jimmy only had $34 left, he had to borrow $41 from his parents, which put him in debt. Still, he figured he could pay off his debt in less than a week, so he went back to work, happy, but not quite as happy as he'd been when he banked his first week's pay.

The next day more City Council people in white coats and clipboards showed up. They were Health Inspectors. They said that Jimmy's mother's kitchen did not meet commercial food production standards and that he would have to make improvements. The improvements cost Jimmy $1500 plus $50 for a commercial Food Producer Licence. He didn't have this much money, of course, so he had to borrow it from one of his uncles. He was now $1591 in debt.

By working constantly throughout the school holidays he earned $500, which reduced his debt to $1091.Demoralized and bewildered by the grim outcome of his hard work, it was with a heavy heart that he prepared to return to school.

Two days later poor Jimmy Brown heard from the Department of Inland Revenue, who said that he owed them $125 in taxes. But seeing as how Jimmy was $1091 in debt he couldn't afford to pay his taxes. Once again he tried to borrow, but by now people were wary of lending money to him. A month later Inland Revenue imposed a penalty of $10,000 on Jimmy for refusing to pay his taxes.

Sadly, Jimmy Brown, the flaxen ten-year-old, is now in prison for income tax evasion, where he spends his lonely nights wondering, "Why didn't I just finish school and go on the dole like everyone else?"

Having heard this tragic story, and others like it, I propose a new motto for the New Zealand government: If a light shines, stamp it out.

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