I am the new kid at school. Again. After lunch at this new school, we third graders have to sit on benches under the basketball nets while the older kids finish eating.
      I sit next to Joanie who has a cool Roy Rogers and Dale Evans lunchbox. How can I make myself interesting so that she’ll want to play with me at recess?
      “My whole family used to work in the circus,” I tell her. “My cousins flew on the flying trapeze and my aunt danced with a bear.”
      That seems to get her attention. And the attention of a few other kids sitting nearby.
      “Really?” asks a wispy-haired girl in front of us. I think her name is Rene. The others lean in.
      “We had a pet baby elephant,” I continue. “She was an orphan so I had to feed her from a bottle. I named her Mimi.”
      Now the boys behind us are listening, too.
      “Right. You had a pet elephant,” jeers a boy named John who has been sent to the principal’s office twice in the three days I’ve been at this school.
      But the other kids are starting to doubt me, too. I can see it in their faces. How can I get out of this jam?
      “And then I woke up,” I say.
      “You were dreaming all that?” asks Joanie.
      She doesn’t play with me at recess.

       I was a big liar in my early years. When my mom thought I had lied, she made me stick out my tongue to prove it had not turned black. Of course I would not open my mouth for fear of being caught. I was so young that I did not realize Mom was lying in this matter of the black tongue. Such innocence. Such irony.

      I was ashamed of the whoppers I told when I was a little kid until I read a post on from… about children and lying:
     “Researchers have found that the ability to tell fibs at the age of two is a sign of a fast developing brain and means the liars are more likely to have successful lives. Scientists found that the more plausible the lie, the more quick witted the liars will be in later years and the better their ability to think on their feet. It also means that they have developed ‘executive function’ – the ability to invent a convincing lie by keeping the truth at the back of their minds.”
     The article goes on to suggest such child liars would make good bankers as adults – but it seems to me lying is good practice for a later life in fiction writing, as well.

      To craft a believable story, we are called upon to create a believable lie. We must invent it all: dialogue that rings true, plausible events, realistic challenges for our characters’ lives. Like good liars, we freely mix in actual factual details from the real world to lend credence. We fabricate to reveal a bigger Truth.

     But back to my black-tongued childhood. I wonder how many of you writers out there were also child liars?

Contributed by Laura Kvasnosky, no lie.



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2 responses to “THE ABSOLUTE TRUTH

  1. carolinetc

    Laura, I believe it! I was also a liar as a child–sometimes to get out of trouble, but usually because the stories I came up with were so much more interesting than the truth. Even now I occasionally catch myself recounting events not-quite-factually in order to make a better story. (I am relieved to hear that this is simply my well-developed executive function at work.)

  2. Sean Petrie

    Oh, I was totally a child liar. And mine also started when I was a new kid, after moving from OH to TX in 5th grade. Didn’t lie before that. But in 5th grade, I made up stuff all the time, to impress the kids at my new school…

    Probably the biggest one: I told my classmates I’d been on David Letterman. But just in case they somehow checked, I told them you could only see my arms and legs — not face — because I’d been leading a chimpanzee from off-stage for Jack Hanna, who was a frequent guest on the show and the director of the Columbus, OH Zoo. I told them my step-mom worked at the Zoo (true), and that she got me on the show with Jack (totally false). As far as I know, all the kids bought it.

    Closest I came to getting caught: After Christmas break, I told a bunch of kids how my stocking had caught fire on the mantel, and my mom had freaked, running around trying to put it out and finally grabbing a bag of flour and tossing the whole thing on the blackened stocking. Later that day, a friend walked home with me. “I thought it got burnt,” he said, pointing to the completely undamaged stocking hanging from our mantel with my name on it. I panicked for a second, then replied: “Oh, yeah, well, we bought a NEW one. Why would we keep a burnt stocking hanging around? That’s crazy.”

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