About two years ago, a fellow professor bragged to me about how he lowered his tax bracket. He said that he would collect items people had put out for trash pickup and then take them to Goodwill for the tax deduction. Envious, I decided to engage in a little one-upmanship.

I began rounding up couches, chairs and tables from the curbs of upscale neighborhoods. On the drive home one evening, I was trying to load a sofa from a curb when, suddenly, a voice said: "Dr. Mather! What are you doing in our trash?" I looked up to see one of my students staring at me. Seconds later, a man appearing to be her father showed up. "What's going on here?" he demanded. My survival instinct kicked in.

"Sir, I am the scoutmaster of the Falls Church Boy Scouts," I declared. "Our boys need furniture to stock their new bunkhouse."

The man was instantly understanding and hurried to help me. He offered me love seats from his basement, and I replied that I couldn't fit it all in my SUV. "Not to worry," he said, offering to follow me in his truck. Meanwhile, I plotted an end to the misadventure.

We pulled into my driveway. "Where is the bunkhouse?" he asked.

"You've done enough," I replied. "Let's unload it, and I'll get the Scouts to deal with it tomorrow."

He left, and I stopped picking up discards and now happily pay my taxes.

Leonard J. Mather, Falls Church

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