Lies — Zachary Durham

There’s no way to remember every single lie you’ve told, but I can remember three. Well, that’s a stretch. I remember three times I lied, though I couldn’t tell you exactly what they were about. They were childish things, probably. Fibbing about making a mess or making up excuses for not putting away your crayons. Lies like that. But when you’re a child, sometimes you just must lie. You must.

The first time was in the living room. It was a standard living room with a couch, a lounge chair, a carpet, and a television to stare it. Doesn’t sound like a lot because that was all there was, really. I don’t remember if it was a soft couch or a moldy one we got cheap from the landfill. I don’t recall if the chair creaked too much when you laid back or if it threatened to topple over if you rocked it. I don’t even know if we had one of those televisions that took up the whole wall, or one you had to squint at, but I do remember that it was all around decent as far as trailer living rooms go. Probably.

I also don’t quite remember what the lie was about—maybe I knocked a book over, I don’t know—but I was about eight, my brother about five. Maybe. We were young. Anyway, I did something and then mom comes thumping in. I can tell she was mad, but not because of her snarl, or how her eyes seemed to be cutting us open with every look, but because we heard her a long time before she came up to us. It was like an echo chamber, that trailer. You always heard it before it was upon you.

I don’t remember specifics, but I clearly remember her asking, “Who did it?”

Honesty is the best policy, but whoever made that up never met my mom. I didn’t know what to do and my brother was right there doing absolutely nothing. That ignorant nothingness was broken the moment I pointed at him. I don’t remember what I did—Juice. I think I knocked over juice, but that couldn’t be it, right? —but I do remember my mom smacking my brother upside the head four times, closed fist. I counted.

The next time I lied, I wasn’t even guilty. I just didn’t want to get hit. What kid wants to get hit?

This time it was in the bathroom. Or maybe it was outside? The details are skim and loose, but I knew for certain that I did not want to get hit. But my mom, determined woman she was, deemed someone had to get hit.

And there was my brother again. Just there. Innocent with his pudgy little face and doing whatever it is doe-eyed kids like him do right before they get beat upside the head. I didn’t feel guilty.

You wanna know why I didn’t feel guilty? Because I stood there, watching my mother hammer my brother at the back of his head. His body kept jerking forward, and he mumbled out something as fat tears smudged up his coloring book—he was getting good at staying in the lines. Yeah, that’s what he was doing. Except now he couldn’t do it because my mom, generous woman she was, decided to spare my brother the brain damage and shifted to just smacking his back. I stood there watching as some unspoken ferocity overcame her, and all I could think was that I was so very glad that wasn’t me because I didn’t want to get hit by that. What kid does?

I love my brother, but I still didn’t feel guilty.

I do remember what I did the third time I lied. I remember because my mom got wise, I guess.

I was in the kitchen playing with my toys. In one hand was Goku, my hero, taking a beating from Freeza, the bad guy. Plastic was grinding against plastic which meant Goku was in a bad way, but that’s how the story goes. See, the good guy gets beat down, and down, and down but when you think all hope is lost, they come back and win. You gotta have air-tight story structure like that for your hero stories, and as a kid I ate up a good hero story. And Goku had to have the best hero story because he was my hero. Goku got hit all the time, but he wasn’t scared like I was. Funny enough, Goku was the kind of hero that would let himself get hit so others wouldn’t.

I remember wishing I was a lot more like him. Looking back now, maybe it was silly.

Anyway, so right when Goku is about to deliver the final blow—which was just me whacking the two toys together, but trust me, it seemed way cooler back then—I slip up on the floor and instead of Freeza, Goku knocks over this potted plant my mom had sitting near the stove. Now why she would leave a plant so close to a stove is beyond me, but you don’t question things my mom does. You ask her too many questions, you might annoy her and then you get— The pot keels over, too overwhelmed by Goku’s misdirected finishing super kick, and spills dirt all over the stove top. It was everywhere.

It was just an accident, but my mom doesn’t believe in accidents that weren’t hers, so when she comes out my response is of course, “Nick did it.”

Imagine my face when my flawless lie failed, and my mom started wailing on me. I remember thinking that maybe, by some miracle, Goku would save me, but he had dropped out of my hand long ago, obviously too ashamed to defend a coward.

Fast-forward to around now, and I can’t believe my brother doesn’t hate me. You would think he would, but he doesn’t. Sometimes when we’re together, I bring up those lies. I say I’m sorry because I was the big brother, he looked up to me. I failed him, but he doesn’t blame me. Doesn’t blame me, he says. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say he’s full of shit, but there’s a lot I don’t know. What I do know is our mom, and what I know about her inclines me to believe him.

We keep things short when our mom comes up. We usually talk about happier things because no one wants to talk about all the lies they told.