SHORT STORY: “Coyote Bodhi”
“Coyote Bodhi is a simple man living a charitable life. Coyote Bodhi does not declare himself to be a healer of men. Coyote Bodhi makes no assertions on religious faith. Coyote Bodhi is not a medical practitioner. Coyote Bodhi is only a man who can be watched. Coyote Bodhi can be touched and felt. Coyote Bodhi can be awakened. And you will be too, like the thousands of others who have upgraded their destinies by experiencing The Coyote Awakening.”
Damon Castro knew this all sounded crazy, but it wasn’t his job or his place to dictate the sanity or morality of the businesses his clients conducted. His responsibilities as a tax attorney went no further than his client’s financial affairs. Damon’s specialty was tax negotiation and settlement but he also worked with the Revenue Department to help reduce his client’s tax liabilities, resolve their back tax issues, and to defend them on their inevitable federal audits. Today’s workload was a hearing on the validity of his client’s application to file taxes as a charitable organization which, in most cases, is just as exciting as it sounds. But this was no ordinary case because Coyote Bodhi was no ordinary client.
At first sight, there is nothing that stands out as particularly exceptional about Coyote Bodhi. Coyote is forty-two years of age, a Chumash Indian descended from the Upop village near Point Conception. Coyote has a hangdog stare that looks like he’s just been woken from a nap and isn’t fully awake yet. His body is trim and he appears to be in reasonably good health. He looks like a good number of the men who do landscaping in Southern California, save for the fact that for someone who has a name associated with danger and independence, Coyote dresses entirely in white like a Native American Tom Wolfe, sans the hat.
The Judge hearing this case, a dour, balding, sixty-year-old man with brown spots on his sun-tanned dome named Paul Stuart, let the young tax attorney make his statement even though it was very out of the ordinary. He immediately regretted the decision. The problem was if you didn’t let these attorneys speak they were a pain in the neck the whole rest of the day so it was better to let them say what they needed to say so that they could get down to business. The Judge wasn’t expecting a commercial, and now the commercial was extending into Damon’s opening statement. This job would be so much better without the lawyers.
“Every prophet starts small,” Damon continued. “Jesus Christ. The Prophet Muhammad. Swami Vivekananda. Joseph Smith. Size didn’t make them any less of a prophet. We thank you for your time in this hearing, and for providing us the opportunity to present our case under section 50c (1) (3) of the Revenue Code which will prove definitively that The Coyote Awakening is a charitable organization and thereby should be federally tax-exempt.”
Arthur Parris was the representative from the Tax Department and showed no emotion to the things he was hearing because in his twenty-seven years in the Tax Department he had seen and heard it all. They were all the same: shysters, swindlers, grifters, charlatans, confidence artists, hustlers, and lawyers. There hadn’t been an excuse in the entire history of excuses that he hadn’t heard at least once. Arthur was a fiscal conservative and didn’t like paying taxes either, but he sure did like those nice paved roads that they all had to drive on and those brave police departments who kept people from stealing everything in their houses and the heroic fire departments who made sure those same houses didn’t burn right down to the ground. People always disagree about how tax money should be spent, but everyone agrees about that. Arthur couldn’t abide freeloaders, believing everyone who benefits should pay their fair share.
“Your Honor,” Arthur began, “this is highly irregular. The taxpayer has the burden of proof to show that the Department made a mistake in interpreting Federal law and the taxpayer’s status as a charitable organization. Whatever that was, it was not evidence. That was an infomercial to play on our emotions. I request those comments be stricken from the record.”
“Objection,” Damon countered.
“Sustained,” the Judge decided. “The taxpayer’s statement is irrelevant to the facts of the case, Mister Parris. This is the Federal government. You know we don’t have emotions.”
The Judge waited to see if there was anything young Mister Castro needed to add, like perhaps adding his client’s beatification bona-fides to the official record. They shared an awkward few moments staring at each other waiting for the other to speak until the Judge felt it was safe to proceed.
“Mr. Parris, representing the Tax Department, has filed the official objections to The Coyote Experience tax-exempt certifications, which have been entered into the record. You have had time to review these objections, is that correct, Mr. Castro?”
“Yes, your honor, that’s correct,” Damon replied.
“Does the Tax Department have any further filings?” The Judge asked.
“The Tax Department always has additional filings,” Arthur stated.
“We will address those. Mr. Coyote Bodhi and the rest of the witnesses have been sworn. A reminder, I know I said this at the outset, but again, this hearing is being recorded.”
Damon’s strategy was to get what he saw as his biggest stumbling block out of the way. It was the YouTube video posted on The Coyote Experience website. The first time Damon watched it, it was the most insane thing he’d ever seen. There was no way these people were serious. He watched again and realized that these people were not acting. That might have been enough for Damon to refuse to do business with Coyote and this organization alone were it not for the fact that Damon was paid a $50,000 retainer upfront, which he’d never gotten from a client before. Seven years out of law school and Damon still had over $150,000 in student loans left to pay off. If a client wanted his attention, that was a good place to start.
The video played over a display monitor. It began with ethereal music and a lilting soprano, then a drone video shot from the clouds descended from a high mountaintop to where Coyote Bodhi walks with a small crowd of followers. Coyote Bodhi moves ahead of them and turns around to face the group of around fifteen. These followers are the devoted, the inspired, the true believers. They are captivated, hopeful, desperate, with some on the verge of tears.
“Coyote Bodhi is a man who can be watched,” the narrator begins. The video shows Coyote engaging in everyday tasks: standing on a corner waiting to cross the street, shopping in the supermarket, and sitting on a park bench on a sunny day. In each task, his devoted followers stand only a few inches away from him, uncomfortably close for everyone except the followers and their subject as they study Coyote’s every movement like it was the Zapruder film.
“Coyote Bodhi can be touched and felt,” the narrator continued as Coyote stood on an arching wooden bridge over a running stream in a beautiful, peaceful setting while a line of followers stood thirty deep down and off the bridge. As each individual follower approaches him, Coyote lifts up a convenient flap on the front of his shirt that exposes a large section of his unexceptional stomach. The followers each place their flat palms against Coyote’s stomach. The look on Coyote’s face is one of peace, contentment, and enlightenment. The looks on the follower’s faces were equal parts wonder, astonishment, and joy.
“Coyote Bodhi is a man who can be awakened,” the narrator said with added gravitas. This time, Coyote lay with his eyes closed on a large four-post wooden bed that was inexplicably set up in a deep, grassy field. The followers, queued up like they’re waiting in line at Disneyland, approach the peaceful, sleeping Coyote one by one and gently awaken him from his sleep. Coyote opens his eyes and stares at each one thoughtfully. The inspiration and love in the follower’s faces were obvious. Coyote has the same peaceful, contented expression as always.
The video clip ends with another drone shot that shows Coyote Bodhi standing before his followers. There is an air of celebration, as the faithful dance and experience full and unfiltered self-expression around their spiritual leader. “You can experience Coyote and the power he brings to lives when you experience The Coyote Awakening. Contact us now and gift yourself The Coyote Awakening.” The image froze on the website address and the clip ended.
The Judge was unsure what he had just watched, but wanted to make himself clear. “There are several things I’m looking at here. To be tax-exempt, the organization has to be organized and operated exclusively for exempt purposes, with none of the earnings going to any one individual or private shareholder. Please explain how this isn’t a money-making venture, because this looks like a money-making venture. That video did not help your case, sir.”
The sharp rebuke from the Judge didn’t bother Coyote Bodhi one bit. He sat in his chair with his genial smile plastered on his face like he was in a park sitting on a bench on a beautiful, sunny spring day watching the birds frolicking. Coyote took in the unfolding scene like he was watching a television drama happening in real time around him. Coyote wasn’t worried one bit. He hired a good attorney that does good work. It was time for him to get started.
Damon addressed the Judge. “I would like to call my first witness, your Honor. Sander Briles is a member of the Board of Directors and serves as Chief Financial Officer for The Coyote Awakening.” On paper, this was an ideal witness for Damon. Sander had all the right certifications and qualifications: Harvard MBA, Rhodes scholar, internships with both the World Bank and at the United Nations. “We have submitted for the record our supporting documentation including our mission statement, donation protocols, internal policies on resolving conflicts and amending bylaws, as well as the financial reporting protocols for your review,” Damon added.
Sander Briles sat down at the table. While the documentation he provided was detailed and professional, Sander’s presentation was anything but. He wore open-toed sandals and dressed in breathable cotton perfectly suitable for the hot summer months in Los Angeles. His shirt was loose and unbuttoned. His beard and his long hair were snow white and impeccably trimmed. He looked like a man who had gone on a long vacation and never returned.
“Coyote Bodhi does not perform this service to humanity for money,” Sander testified. “If Coyote Bodhi was doing this service for money, Coyote Bodhi could charge twenty times for the commitment Coyote Bodhi is to the lives in this world. Coyote Bodhi is up to big things.”
“Why do you keep saying his name over and over?” The Judge asked.
“Coyote Bodhi does not like pronouns,” Sander announced.
“Is that a suggestion or a rule?” The Judge asked.
“That is the way it has always been,” Sander answered.
Okay, Damon thought, maybe Sander won’t be the ideal witness. That was okay. Damon could work around that. Sander’s strength was on paper and in the information he’d provided to the court for the hearing. Damon saw pictures of Sander from a few years back before he’d found himself in Coyote Bodhi’s orbit, which was right around the time Damon was getting out of law school, and Sander looked like an entirely different man. This was the Sander who’d gotten the Harvard MBA and became the Rhodes Scholar. Back then, his hair was high, tight and professional. There was no perfectly coiffed style or anything resembling facial hair. His clothes were conservative, Brooks Brothers suits with shoes made from the finest Italian leather, style choices that accurately reflected his attitude. These days, Sander dressed like a divorced man in his mid-fifties who hasn’t been single since the 1980s and is booked on his first Carnival Cruise, so he took the all-you-can-drink alcohol option because he’s “ready to party”. Damon would only have him answer the questions that had irrefutable evidence for backup.
“Does The Coyote Awakening operate for private benefit, or to a private shareholder?”
“No, it does not,” Sander answered.
“Does it attempt to influence legislation or participate in any political campaigning?”
“It does not,” Sander stated firmly.
“No further questions, your Honor,” Damon said.
It was Arthur Parris’ turn to question Sander, and after a moment where he seemed to formulate the question in his head, Arthur asked in an exasperated tone, “What does anyone do at The Coyote Awakening that makes this a charitable organization? He lets people watch him? How does equate to charity?” Sander didn’t answer. He wouldn’t address the question. It was the pronoun thing. Arthur finally figured out what he was doing wrong and corrected himself. “You’re saying that Coyote Bodhi lets people watch…Coyote Bodhi do his Coyote Bodhi thing?”
Sander smiled. “You should try it sometime, Mr. Parris.” Arthur looked across the table to Coyote Bodhi, who turned his head in Arthur’s direction, smiled, and nodded his agreement. “Coyote Bodhi has a gift. The energy that Coyote Bodhi shares with the world. That is Coyote Bodhi’s charity. Coyote Bodhi doesn’t do this to advance Coyote Bodhi’s private interests, this is Coyote Bodhi at Coyote Bodhi’s purest. I never knew people like Coyote Bodhi actually existed.”
“People love hearing others say their name. They’re called narcissists,” Arthur answered.
“Objection, your honor. Does he have to harass the witness?”
“Sustained. Do you have any further questions, Mr. Parris?”
Arthur shook his head, sat back and bit his tongue. He was letting his personal feelings seep into this one, which wasn’t something he usually did. Arthur had no bias against religion or belief systems. For all he cared, a person could believe that a tuna fish sandwich was the one and only all-powerful being that controlled the secrets to the universe, especially if that’s what it took to keep them from breaking into his house and stealing all his stuff. What Arthur had a problem with was those who took advantage of the elderly, the weak, and the feeble-minded, and this was one of those cases, he was sure of it. These were the kind who tapped out the assets of the people that had the least and needed them the most: Public Security payments, retirement accounts, and social benefits. Then when you die, they want the rest of your estate. That was the price to pay for enlightenment. If he did see all these people after death, Arthur was sure the eternity where he would exist wouldn’t be paradise, but it wouldn’t have fire and brimstone, either.
“I would like to call my next witness, Bonnie Lyman.”
Bonnie Lyman stepped up from her chair and sat down at the table. Everyone in the hearing room recognized Bonnie as one of the participants in the YouTube video, especially after they realized she was wearing the exact same clothes she wore in the video. This was obviously an outfit that worked for her. Bonnie was in her late 30’s and had a cheerful, round face that was friendly, welcoming and looked for the good in someone from the moment they met. There was hope in her eyes; the hope was that one day she would figure all of this out.
“Miss Lyman, please state your name and occupation for the record?” Damon asked.
“Bonnie Lyman. I’m an executive secretary for an auto dealership,” Bonnie replied.
“Miss Lyman, what is your experience with The Coyote Awakening?”
Bonnie started to gush. “Oh, it is just the most magical, the most amazing experience, it’s meant so much to me and my life, and I thought what everyone else thinks when they first see it, like ‘this must be crazy’ and that’s what I thought too, but then you go to Coyote Bodhi and you watch Coyote Bodhi and you feel Coyote Bodhi and you awaken Coyote Bodhi and then you really get it.”
“Really get what, Miss Lyman?”
Arthur looked down at his pad of paper and scribbled. They were getting touched, all right. When it was his turn to question Bonnie Lyman, that was where he focused his line of questioning. “Miss Lyman, how much do the experiences in The Coyote Awakening cost?”
Bonnie thought about it. She’d put it out of her mind because things like that weren’t important anymore, but she’d known that they were going to ask her something like this so she looked back to make sure she knew the answer. “I think it was $500 to observe and watch Coyote Bodhi, $750 to touch and feel Coyote Bodhi, and $1,000 to awaken Coyote Bodhi.”
“A thousand dollars to awaken Coyote Bodhi? Sure gives new meaning to, ‘I don’t get out of bed for less than a grand,’ doesn’t it?”
Damon cast a strenuous objection. “Objection, your Honor, counsel is harassing the witnesses again.”
“Sustained,” the Judge responded. “Last warning, counselor.”
Arthur moved on but had to regain Bonnie’s attention. She and Coyote Bodhi were locked in a love trance from across the hearing table. Tears of joy and happiness rolled down Bonnie’s face. Coyote Bodhi still had the same look on his face that he always had. It was no wonder Arthur didn’t believe him. This was wading into Manson family territory.
“Does everyone pay the $2,250 to do all of these things for Coyote Bodhi?”
“No. Only the ones that want paradise,” Bonnie answered. Arthur smiled. That was a good place to stop.
“No further questions, your Honor,” Arthur concluded.
Damon watched the Judge do his double-takes to Bonnie as she left the hearing table, almost as if he were taking stock of all his thoughts on her testimony before she walked away and he forgot everything he’d just seen and heard. Damon’s final witness was Coyote Bodhi himself. With the lack of success Damon had with the first two witnesses, he wasn’t holding out much hope for the third. Damon knew the paperwork he’d turned in for the Judge to consider put the evidence in their favor, but his witnesses were, to put it mildly, a disappointment. Damon didn’t know what it was. They didn’t seem this weird when he first met them.
Damon announced, “I would like to call our final witness, Coyote Bodhi.” Coyote sat up straight in his chair at the hearing table. “Please state your name and occupation for the record, please?” Coyote sat still, neither talking or moving. Damon corrected himself. “Please state Coyote Bodhi’s name and occupation for the record, please?”
“Coyote Bodhi,” he responded. “Occupation: Human Being.” Damon bristled at the answer but tried not to show it. He was getting the feeling that everyone in the room already thought his client was a flake. He didn’t want them all thinking he thought the same way. Damon decided that, like with Bonnie and Sander, he would ask the questions he needed to ask and get Coyote Bodhi out as soon as possible. The backup documentation would be his case.
“To your knowledge, do The Coyote Awareness earnings inure to any persons, individuals, or private shareholders?”
Coyote leaned forward into the microphone recording his responses. “No they do not,” he whispered softly, clearing his throat. “The earnings only cover our operating expenses.”
“Is The Coyote Awareness involved in political lobbying or campaigning?”
“It is not. The Coyote Awareness takes no role in politics. The Coyote Awareness wants to help people,” Coyote Bodhi replied.
“No further questions, your Honor,” Damon said, sitting back down. He looked over to Arthur, who was sitting on the edge of his chair waiting for his opportunity to question this witness. The look on Arthur’s face said that he would get to the bottom line once and for all.
“Do people pay for your services?” Arthur began.
“They do not “pay” us,” Coyote Bodhi answered. “They contribute what they feel they can.”
“Do you make suggestions on the level of contributions they make?”
“I do not,” Coyote Bodhi admitted, “But someone does.”
“How does…Coyote Bodhi determine that what you…Coyote Bodhi… does is worth something?” Arthur asked. “Who makes that determination?”
Coyote Bodhi didn’t answer the question. He contemplated his answer for such an extended period of time that the Judge nearly asked Arthur to repeat the question, thinking that perhaps it hadn’t been heard. Finally, Coyote Bodhi spoke.
“It’s worth something to those who come to see me, I suppose. Did I think it was unusual at first? People watching me? Touching me? Waking me up? Of course I did. Who wouldn’t? Did I think it was more unusual that these people were willing to pay money so they could do these things? Unquestionably. Was I willing to take the money they offered to allow them the freedom to do these things? Undeniably.”
“Then it is not, in fact, a charitable organization?” Arthur surmised.
“People give something of themselves to be here because they get something out of doing these things. I give myself to them. It provides something for their lives. I cannot always explain why. It just does. Neither of us has to do those things. We do them because we want to. We make a contribution to each other’s life. That is charity.”
“Then why do you have a private jet?” Arthur asked.
“How do you expect me to connect with the universe flying commercial,” Coyote Bodhi responded. “I would have to stop 65% of what I was doing.”
“Your latest financial reporting showed that your jet required almost $2.5 million in upgrades, a new hangar, and special maintenance equipment?”
“Yes,” Coyote Bodhi interrupted, “that is why we had to buy the new jet.”
“A new jet? You bought a new jet?”
“The new jet was necessary. Because of this blessing, people have been able to watch, feel and awaken me on nearly every continent on Earth and have allowed me to spread my message to thousands of people all over the world.”
“What is that message, Mr. Bodhi?” Arthur asked, skeptical.
“You never know where meaning may lie. Our world is filled with miracles, signs, and wonders. There is goodness, and often it’s full of meanness. But they are out there.”
“For $500, $750, and $1,000?” Arthur added.
“We are not communists, Counselor.”
The hearing ended and Damon had the option of submitting additional filings but felt their case was strong. He put on a strenuous defense and Damon was proud of the effort he’d put in. He’d most definitely earned that $50,000 retainer, work that would certainly expand pending a positive resolution of this case. Word came back through the mail several weeks later that Damon had prevailed and The Coyote Awakening was now officially recognized as a charitable organization. Damon called up Coyote Bodhi to share with him the good news that their charitable work could continue.
“I’m glad you called, Damon. What are your thoughts on investing in Bitcoin?”