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Abstract Academic: The sting of lying

Some people have a talent for being tricky. A knack for being knavish, if you will.

These people are not junior high kids.

Oh, that’s not to say the kids I work with aren’t trying their hardest. They stare upwards, puppy-eyed and unassuming, and tell me that they absolutely, 100 percent, hand-on-the-heart do not have any math homework to be doing, which is why they are playing Alien Splat or Launch the Kitten on the computer instead of multiplying fractions.

And when I pull their unfinished worksheets out from under their binders, they stare a few moments and burst into laughter, then pretend to get started on their math until I’m out of earshot, at which point they get back to launching kittens. Because they do not fear me.

What am I going to do? Smack them? No. Too many cameras in that #@*$ school.

I’ve realized that good lying is born out of fear. I’m a terrible liar. Not that I haven’t tried. But I was always unsuccessful, until one incident where the fear of consequence drove me to new heights.

That fear? The fear of ruining a pair of pants.

Being the oldest of four boys, I knew that if I were to ruin one pair of pants, my mom would be livid, and I would be doomed. Because ruining one pair of pants really meant that I was ruining four pairs of pants. Those pants had “to last through all four of us, dang it.” And if they didn’t, my mom was “going to have to start dressing us in burlap.”

Once, when I was probably 7 or 8, I was running around the backyard, fighting like a Power Ranger, and as I rounded the shed in the backyard, I saw a jagged piece of sheet metal sticking out from the wall. Too late to stop, I ran right into it and sliced a 3-inch gash into my thigh.

I hopped around behind the shed, blinking back tears and watching as my jeans turned red.

My jeans!

Oh, no. Mom was going to kill me. I had to think fast. Ignoring the stark pain and the blood running down my leg, I hobbled across the backyard, poked my head in through the door, made sure the coast was clear, and bolted through the kitchen to my bathroom.

Ow. Oh wow ow ow ow ow ow. It hurt. Sobbing breathlessly, I undid the fly and slowly peeled the jeans away from my leg. In my elementary memory, I can see through the wound, deep down into the bone and through the other side of my leg, which was now attached to the rest of me by mere threads of skin.

After applying a textbook-thick layer of Kleenexes to the site of the wound, I wound a roll of masking tape round and round my thigh, then turned to examine the jeans.

Ruined. Unsalvageable. Great. What was I going to do?

Now, as an adult reader, I would say, “What you should do is go tell your mom about that 3-inch gash in your thigh, so she can take you to get stitches and a tetanus shot.” But as a child? No.

Here’s how the next hour went:

  1. Ten minutes spent hopping around the bathroom in blood and tears, wondering if they would sell airplane tickets to Bangladesh to an 8-year-old.
  2. Ten minutes looking for another pair of pants in the dirty laundry hamper, which I squeezed painfully over the top of my bowling ball-sized thigh bandage.
  3. Ten minutes of crying over the ruined jeans.
  4. Twenty-nine minutes to bike unevenly to the church, dump my balled-up, bloody trousers in the church Dumpster, and bike unevenly back home.
  5. One more minute of crying.

My mom got home a little later. I was absolutely sure she would suspect something the minute she walked in the door, and I sat there on the floor in front of the TV, wincing slightly, waiting for her to find some trace, some damning drop of blood.


I lived in a perpetual state of fear for the next two weeks, walking slowly from room to room so as to disguise my limp. She never seemed to even notice the pants were missing. To this day, I still haven’t said anything. Well, actually, I guess not, now.

Anyway, Mom, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry. I owe you one pair of children’s jeans.

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