Liar, Liar

Non-Fiction Short Story by Kelli J Gavin

I am a liar.  Apparently, when you are 10 years old and tell a whopper of a lie, it sticks with you for awhile.  And when I say awhile, I mean for at least 33 years.

My dad and I had been out and about running errands one morning.  He was tired after working many hours and was looking forward to resting on Saturday. He realized he needed some materials for his Monday job and he needed to go to a couple stores. I always remembered asking to go with him.  Hardware store? Yes. I want to go with you.  Gas station?  Of course, let me grab my shoes. This morning, our last errand was to stop for gasoline so that his work truck would be ready to go for another busy week ahead.

I was hungry as we hadn't eaten lunch yet and my stomach was rumbling.  My dad finished pumping the gas, got in the car and pulled out his wallet. He handed me a twenty dollar bill and told me that I could go in and pay if I wanted to. I was so excited. I loved running errands and paying when my parents would let me. It made me feel older than my ten years.

I went into the store and there were a few people in line. The candy aisle caught my attention. On the bottom were the 10 cent and 5 cent candy. And low and behold there were fruit roll ups. 10 cents each.  My parents never bought us the new fruit roll ups and fruit snacks that were at the grocery store.  All my friends seemed to have them in their lunch and for snacks at school. I never did. But I knew how great they tasted. Strawberry was my flavor of choice, and there on the bottom shelf was an entire box of ten cent strawberry fruit rolls ups. I quickly grabbed one and made a beeline for the register.

I paid for the gas and ten cent fruit roll up, stuffed the fruit roll up in my pocket, quickly exited the store and ran to the car. I jumped into the car, slammed the car door and handed the change and the receipt to my dad.  My dad looked at the one dollar bill and the change in his hands and then at me.  I smiled at him as I put on my seat belt.  He then studied the receipt.

"Kelli, I should have gotten exactly two dollars back in change.  I pumped $18 of gas and gave you a twenty.  Where is the rest of the change?"  My dad asked slowly.

"I don't know, that is what she gave me." Lie number one.

"Why does it say -Grocery item- 10 cents on the receipt?"

"I am not sure, maybe she made a mistake." Lie two and three.

"She didn't make a mistake. She has to sell you something for her to ring it up."  My dad knew what I had done.

"She just sold us the gas." Lie four.

"Kelli, did you buy something with the change I asked you to bring back to me?"

I crumbled.  I started to cry.  I couldn't lie to my dad. I reached into my pocket, "Dad, I bought a fruit roll up. I am sorry. I just really wanted one. It is strawberry and my favorite flavor. I didn't think you would even notice."  What made me think that 20 minus 18 equaled anything other than $20?  More importantly, what made me think being deceptive and lying numerous times was acceptable?

My dad was stern with me but never yelled. "Here is the receipt.  Take the fruit roll up and the receipt back into the store and return it. Get the money back and bring back to me.  I will not let you keep this fruit roll up because you lied to me. If you had asked for it, I would have purchased it for you.  But lying will never get you what you want."

I was still crying as I felt bad for lying. Little did I know what was awaiting me in the store. I got out of the car and walked back in. I looked back at my dad one last time as my hand was on the door handle of the corner Tom Thumb, hoping and praying for some reason he would reconsider and not make me return the fruit roll up. He didn't even look at me as he was staring out the window at another car that just pulled up.

The man in front of me at the register finished paying for his purchases and left the line. It was just me standing there staring at the woman whom I had seen every single time I was at the gas station.  I was frozen in place.

"Can I help you sweetie?"

"Um. I...I need to return this."  She took the roll up from hand and inspected the packaging.

"Reason for return?"

"What?" I asked. I am sure my face was tear streaked and as red as a fire engine.

"Why are you returning the fruit roll up?"

"Oh. Um."  I had no idea what to say.  "I thought it was watermelon. It is strawberry." Lie number five. Now I had lied to my dad and the lady at the register.

She pushed a few buttons on her cash register, the drawer popped open and she gave me change. All in pennies.  I was mortified.  Somehow the pennies made it worse.  No.  It was the all knowing look on her face that made it absolutely embarrassing. She knew what happened and never said a word.

"Have a good day dear. See you next time."

I slowly walked to the door and it dawned on me. The reason my dad didn't get mad or yell at me was he knew exactly how this was going to play out. He knew how dreadfully embarrassing it would be for me to have to go back into a store and return a ten cent fruit roll up because I hadn't asked for permission to buy it in the first place.  Going back into the store was the best punishment ever. Because I was mortified. I never wanted to see that cashier again. She knew I was a liar, just like my dad did.

I wasn't grounded, I never did get yelled at.  Come to think of it, I don't think my dad ever even told my mom what happened that morning at the corner gas station. And surely my dad never brought up the subject again.   My punishment was embarrassment.  My dad knew exactly what he was doing.

All these 33 years later, I am able to remember what happened that day like it was yesterday.  I lied numerous times, and my silent punishment was understood.  I even remember thinking how smart  my dad was for making me go back into the store.  For not giving in. For not even saying, that is okay. Here, have the fruit roll up.  He knew there was a lesson in there, and a lesson was learned.

I have over time developed a natural lie detector.  I know when I am being lied to.  Someone won't make eye contact with me.  They over explain or make lots of excuses. Sometimes, it is a tilt of the head and eyes that squeeze shut.  Or even the rubbing of a forehead or hands. But I know when I am being lied to.  My children also know this to be true.  I will catch one in a lie and  only tilt my head and narrow my eyes.  And then clarifying statement  is made to correct what was just said.  And the truth is known.

I never want to be known as a liar.  Not at 10 or at 43. For sure not at 43.  Because I have learned my lesson. I never want to see that look of disappointment on anyone's face. Also, I am thankful for a lesson learned from my dad and lesson reinforced by the lady at the register at the corner Tom Thumb gas station.

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