Friday, April 10, 2009

Fiction Friday:The Lie

This story is a short-short, as opposed to flash fiction. Comments are welcome, but suggestions on what I can do to improve the work are more useful than head pats. So, what works/doesn't work for you? Anything you don't understand, or that feels like it's left out? Anything that feels inauthentic? (Okay, this is a little scary -- I feel like I'm calling, "Here, troll, heeere, trolly, trolly, trolly.")

The Lie

The first time he told the lie was in the back seat of a 1985 Grand Am. At eleven o’clock on a Saturday night, parked next to the baseball diamond by the middle school, he said, “I just want to experience this one time before I die.” The back windows were so fogged that the streetlamp overhead was a hazy glow. His left hand was inside her sweater, his right on the button of her jeans.

She gripped his wrist. “No, I can’t.”

“I wouldn’t ask you,” he said, “but I don’t have long to live.” He only wanted her to believe him long enough to drop her panties. He didn’t really expect her to buy it, but when he got to third base, it seemed like something worth hanging on to.

A few weeks later, in the hallway outside the office of the Wilson High Gazette, when she tried to break up with him, he embroidered a bit. “It’s a rare form of bone cancer – I only have a few years.” He wasn’t sure what the symptoms of bone cancer were, but it sounded like a disease that wouldn’t show on the surface. She looked at him through narrowed eyes.

“One of the Kennedys just had his leg amputated for that,” she said, staring at his calves.

“Mine is in my rib cage. There’s nothing they can amputate.” He put a hand to his side and stifled a groan. That night he received his first hand job.

Every time she raised a question, it raised the stakes. She was supposed to be one of the smartest girls in their class, but her gullibility amazed him. It didn’t seem to matter what he told her, as long as he answered immediately, and with authority. He told her the cancer had been discovered by an x-ray when he broke his ribs playing freshman football (her first orgasm). That was why he didn’t go out for varsity (his first blow job). An afternoon of research at the library yielded the term “multiple myeloma.” Score! After that, she stopped hounding him for details.

In the fall she went away to college. The Grand Am was on its last hubcap, but he drove over every weekend, and each day in between he talked to her on the phone. Any guy she spoke to was a threat, any professor she admired put him at risk; he had to add a lot to keep her interest. His bones were turning into Swiss cheese, he told her. The typical progression of the disease was 10 to 12 years; the doctor estimated that he’d already had it from 4 to 6. She was an English major, but she could do the math. It was a relief when, at the end of her first semester, she told him she was pregnant.

They got married in the next state, where they didn’t need their parents’ permission. They got jobs, an apartment. Ashley was born. They got better jobs and bought a house. They spent a lot of time with his family, less with hers, who always eyed him like he’d stolen something from them.

He felt like a spider trapped in his own web.

Sometimes she’d ask how he was doing.

“Stable,” he’d say. “I’m still in remission, thank God.” Jesus Christ, he’d think to himself, was this woman really our valedictorian?

They’d been married eight years when he realized she was having an affair. She became more and more detached. Every day he expected her to announce that she was leaving, and when she didn’t, it gave him hope. He decided to dust the story off one more time.

“I saw the doctor last week,” he said, as they unloaded groceries.

She placed a box of Rice-a-Roni on the shelf. “Oh?”

He plowed ahead. “I’m out of remission,” he said. “He said it’s only a couple of years now.”

She turned to look at him.

“Really?” she said. “I spoke to the nurse on Monday. She said you haven’t been in since you sprained your elbow three years ago.”

The solid slab beneath his feet seemed to melt, until it felt like his ankles were encased in concrete. The fluorescent light over the kitchen sink backlit her hair with a halo. She grabbed two cans of green beans off the counter as though she wanted to hurl them at him like low-sodium thunderbolts.

“Why did you lie to me?”

He tried to think of something to say. He could tell her she’d been the most beautiful, most fascinating girl he’d ever seen. He could tell her he’d known she was way out of his league, and the only way he’d had a chance was to somehow be more interesting than the other guys in the school. He could tell her the life, the family, they’d built had gone beyond his wildest dreams, and he’d been willing to do anything to keep it together. He could point out that if he’d gone out of bounds by lying, then she’d been equally out of bounds in believing what was obviously bullshit. In the end, all he was left with was the truth that had first set him on this path.

“I just wanted to get laid.”

26 comments:

K said...

I enjoyed the story.

I'm not a great writer and I don't think I can add much insightful on that front.

The one thing I would say is that I had a hard time believing the girl would be quite that dumb. Maybe we need a reason or some background that would explain her willingness to buy the lie?

Thanks for posting (and I think you're very brave).

Andrea said...

I too enjoyed the story...loved that you didn't use names. Good job! :)

Hit 40 said...

Not bad. Had some soft porn, tension... what more do we want? Oh.. LSV - language, sex, violence? You had one of the three. And... I do like to study others. They fascinate me.

Dedene said...

Bwahhhhh! I'm laughing, that was too funny. They're both idiots, obviously made for each other.

I understood it all, it all made perfect sense, except that the woman was too stupid. But it worked for the story.

CDB said...

I enjoyed this; it's paced very well. I don't think her having an affair is useful or contributory without more information (is it serious? Will she leave him, really? Is it necessary for him to dust off the old lie?)

And the ending punched me in the gut.. my reaction was, "anything but that!" I'm left confused about how I feel about the character. Though I like her a lot.

Great amount condensed into a small package, which is tough. Good job! (Head pat.)

Steven G said...

Interesting. The day is winding down, and only 5 comments so far.

Well paced. Good visuals (parked by the baseball diamond)(Grand Am on its last hubcap)

Excellent paragraph where each embellishment garners him another advancement.

"Solid slab beneath his feet..." paragraph is outstanding and poetic; these characters don't deserve it. It's almost out of place.


Even with a child, love was never mentioned once in this story. Of course she had an affair. He had long since conquered her,arm candy followed by jealousy, but he never won her.

In the final line, his stark admission confirmed that the whole marriage was one big lie. Such is the alchemy for so many divorces.

Steven G said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steven G said...

and furthermore....

Looks like I'm the only guy so far, so I'll note this:

Your challenge asked if anything might seem "inauthentic".

I've been thinking all day, "what kind of a guy would have to lie to a woman to get laid?"

Thought Buff or Dave K might have weighed in on that one.

Vodka Mom said...

that was great. I was intrigued- and read the whole damn thing.


and THAT is saying something.

Jeanne said...

At the risk of sounding like a man-basher, but based on my exiting and entering the dating scene a few times over the past 40 years, ALL OF THEM! They might not NEED to, but certainly a great many of them are willing to.

Maggie May said...

Brilliant ideas here! Love the storyline, the details, this was good! It's exciting to me, as you can see, when someone can write :)

I'd chuck the part where you say 'he didn't really expect to get anywhere' etc. That is already obvious and redundant to narrate.

xo

Michelle said...

I liked it but didn't want it to end.

we're doomed said...

A well written story. And very entertaining. Sadly however, probably very true somewhere near all of us right now.

rachael chatoor said...

Great story, it was easy to read and comprehend. I wanted to throttle the girl for being so dumb, but then I realized that there was a time in my life when I was that gullible. I don't think I was that dumb for that long though, LOL.

buffalodick said...

Most guys would have run like a rabbit after the first sign of success... Well written!

anymommy said...

You held my interest all the way through. I loved the detail and imagery. The progressive paragraph was my favorite too.

I agree with others in that I didn't quite believe that she'd believe it and let it go so far. Maybe she has a motive? A reason not to investigate earlier?

HoodChick said...

I'm not sure the 'just get laid' part jives. Most guys that would pull something like this get laid and then move on to the next conquest. Maybe some more emotion on his part towards the girl and why he stayed with her would have made it more real.

we're doomed said...

To all of those folks that can't quite believe that the two characters in this story wouldn't exist in real life. I am sorry to tell you, they do. I know several examples of the man. And don't get me started on how many women I know that are like the woman in the story. These people are among us. And it is very sad that they live their lives this way. Jeanne's story is all too true. Trust me, I have been observing these people for a long time. While Jeannes' writing, as always, is very very good. If I was going to give Jeanne an award it would be for providing the inherent truth about what goes on in the real world.

bernthis said...

You had me the entire way. I can see what K is saying about telling us more about her so we know why she believed him but on the other hand I and many others who are bright women and have been around the block, so to speak, have been very willing to believe A LOT of things in the interest of not being alone. Sadly, I do buy that this woman would believe him.

MuseSwings said...

I just stopped by to wish you a happy Easter!

The Self-Deprechaun said...

Hi Jeanne-

Responding to the hotdogs and Korean food question. I am not an expert but can tell you from my experience that I have had something like that before. I can attest it to having no other meat substitute or finding the cheapest, easiest means to feed the masses. Sometimes, my mom will fry up spam with rice and that will be the meal and i better like it.

Rachel said...

I enjoyed it, but wanted more of the story, too!

Far Side of Fifty said...

"Any guy she spoke to was a threat, any professor she admired put him at risk;" ..I would cut this, it just didn't seem to belong..either that or tell me more.
"They’d been married eight years when he realized she was having an affair. She became more and more detached." You have to tell me more here also..

Believe or not I actually knew a few guys that tried to use these lines..I think it works better for the sixties than the eighties..in the sixties..before all the free love and sex of the Flower children..this and all kinds of "sob" stories worked well even on the smart chicks. In the eighties is doubtful for me as a reader. But 50's or 60's is believable.
I am just a reader..not an editor:)

Roshni Mitra Chintalapati said...

hmmm... interesting... and probably the main reason why is that I fell for that line (yeah, can you believe it?!) at one point in my life too! But I came out of it pretty soon. So yeah, I cannot believe that the girl believed him for so long. She probably knew but was just playing along for....what reason?! Not sure. Coz she loved him sounds lame at this point. But, is that the reason she's having an affair? To get back at him?
Sorry if this sounds like babbling.. I am actually thinking aloud and... not sure if this helps!

ladyfi said...

Brilliance in a short compact format! I really got a good feel for the boy, but the girl could do with a little rounding out perhaps... Why did she believe him? Probably because she wanted to get laid too.. in which case, you could take away the 'how could she be so dumb?', 'Was she really valedictorian?' bit... Maybe make a little bit fuller too?

Loved the story!

Jill said...

You don't need to say another word about the woman! She is a teenage girl, lest we all forget how naive and trusting we were as teenage girls. I am still raising 3 young, smart and beautiful teenage daughters. It never ceases to amaze me at how much BS they believe from the zit-faced teenage suiters! And we parents are just "STUPID". Once again, "NO background needed,just the fact that she is a teenage girl should be all the explaination needed" --I noticed the adult mother version, called the doctor's office when things didn't add up.

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