a short story by bruce dierbeck
I’ll admit it, I’m a liar. And I don’t mean those little fibs either, like telling your parents the report card didn’t come yet, when really it’s been confiscated and buried in the garbage beneath piles of German Shepherd feces. I mean real lifes; the kind that are capable of hurting – scratch that – crippling people. oh yeah, my lies are dangerous.
But if I’m a liar as I say I am, then how do you know I’m telling the truth when I claim to be a liar? Maybe I was just lying about being a liar before, which means I’m not a liar at all. But now that I lied before by saying that I was a liar, that makes me just that after all — a liar. So no matter which way you look at it, you can’t believe a word I say. It’s the true mark of a liar.
My psychiatrist seems to think it has something to do with the death of my parents at such a young age. I would wish they were dead sometimes; it’s true. But I never really meant it. It was usually one of those deals where I thought they favored my little sister over me, and I’d tell them as much, followed by some variation of the phrase, “I hate you guys. I wish you were dead.”
Have you ever seen that movie, Home Alone? Where the little blond kid gets pissed at his mom and wishes his family would all just disappear, and his mom tells him to be careful, because he might just get what he wishes for. So naturally, when he wakes up the next morning and the entire family’s gone, he thinks his wish came true. I guess it’s sort of like that. My mother used to say the same thing to me.
One morning – actually, it was February 29th, a leap year believe it or not – after having one of the aforementioned exchanges, my parents sent me to my bedroom and took my sister out to get ice cream. Yeah, she died in the accident, too. She was seven. They told me they were taking her for ice cream because she was a good girl. When I would learn to be good, too, they’d take me for ice cream. Now who’s the liar? They told me they’d take me for ice cream, but they never did … some drunk fell asleep at the wheel and crossed six lanes of traffic on the interstate, hitting them head-on. All died instantly. They never came back home. Never took me for ice cream. I got my lying problem from them.
Having your parents die in a vehicular inferno on leap year especially sucks, since you only get to acknowledge the anniversary once every four years. I’m twenty-nine now; they died when I was nine, so that’s twenty years to the day since they died. But it’s only the fifth anniversary of the accident. Go figure.
My girlfriend dumped me, yesterday. It was probably just as well. Like me, she had a problem telling the truth sometimes. But I think she was worse. If you would accuse her of lying, she’d probably deny it. I tried that once. I called her on one of her lies. She was out all night about a month ago. She told me she was out with her sister, who was in town for the night. But I know she was seeing some other guy. How do I know, you ask? See, because I prefaced this with an admission of being a liar, your first inclination is to doubt me. I understand. But this isn’t a lie. I know she was with some other guy because I saw her with him that night. I was on a job. I can’t say anything more about what that job was, because my employers swore me to secrecy. I signed the papers and everything, agreeing not to divulge certain details about my profession or anything I do. But I will disclose this much about what I saw that night — she was out, and she was out with another man. And she was all over him on the dance floor.
Of course, when I called her out on it, all she did was deny it and call me a liar. She knows that isn’t true – I don’t lie. I’m just kidding about that last part. See? Even liars have a sense of humor. But she did accuse me of lying about her being with another man, and since I didn’t want to be in a relationship with a woman who couldn’t trust me, I ended it right there. I told her I’d had enough, and broke up with her right there and then.
I wear a name tag to work every day. Jack. That’s what the name tag says – Jack. or at least, that’s what I tell my parents when they ask. I wouldn’t want them to worry if they heard what I really did for a living.
I’m an assassin. It’s funny, you should have seen the look on my psychiatrist’s face when I first told her my profession. She was scared, and not someone sneaking up behind you and shouting “Boo!” kind of scared. I’m talking about the terror a deer feels standing in the middle of the road as a pair of high beams rush closer and closer, until just before that moment of actual impact. That final millisecond before, when it realizes what’s going to happen, but can’t believe it’s really the end. That scared.
Our relationship is sorta like that on The Sopranos. There you’ve got a mob guy who sees a shrink, and although he never reveals the truly grisly details about what he does, the shrink can read between the lines. Like I said before, my psychiatrist was scared at first, also. See? I remembered what I said before about my shrink being scared. And that’s why I’m telling the truth. People who tell lies always get caught up and forget what they’ve said. That’s how you can tell a liar. They’ll forget the details. They’ll say one thing, and then later on they’ll say something completely different that contradicts everything. But I don’t do that.
My neighbor’s a jerk. It’s why I hate living in an apartment. Whoever built this place didn’t care, or was too cheap, to do a proper job of insulating. That’s another problem with apartment hunting, by the way. They’ve got you by the balls right away because of what you can’t see. Sure, they give you the tour, but they always do it at the same time of the day. Have you ever noticed that? Two in the afternoon. It’s when everyone is at work. The place is at its quietest. So when you look around and see the spacious living room with a view, not to mention the bedroom with walk-in closet and last, but certainly not least, the bathroom with not just a shower, but a bathtub to boot — of course you think it’s a steal. But what you don’t see is what’s underneath the paint. Below the plaster. Beneath the drywall. The insulation. Or lack thereof, actually.
I didn’t know how thin the walls were when I started renting this place. There’s no way I could have, unless I brought my crowbar with and asked to chisel away to take a closer look. But then you can imagine how crazy I would look!
So because of the superintendent’s trickery, I have to listen to Bill’s – that’s my neighbor’s name – favorite television shows. Survivor, every Wednesday at eight. David Letterman, every night just after 11:30. And I have to listen to his radio every morning as he gets ready for work. That easy listening, middle of the road shit. Christopher Cross. Chicago. Anything that starts with a “C”. And then there’s him and his girlfriend.
His bedroom is directly next to mine on the other side of the wall. And our beds are in the exact same locations. His headboard would hit my headboard if we didn’t have walls separating us. And I hear everything. His marathon sessions with his “Flavor of the Month” girlfriends. He goes through them like I go through jobs. And believe me, that’s a lot. Around six months ago, I was laying in bed — notice I don’t say lying in bed, because that would remind you that I’m a liar and you might not believe what I’m about to tell you — but anyway, I was in bed trying to sleep, and I hear them on the other side of the wall. I hear their moans, their groans, their bed slamming against my wall. And slamming. And screaming. And slamming some more, until finally, the painting that hangs above my bed crashed onto my head.
The glass frame shattered upon contact with my head, not to mention the fact that the painting was ruined. It took three days before I finally got all the shards of glass out of my head. I even had one piece embedded in my eye. My doctor told me I’d never be able to enlist in the army now, since I’m twenty-five percent blind in my left eye. I never planned on joining the army anyway, but it would have been nice to keep my options open.
So the next day, I went down to the magazine stand on the corner of Ridgeway and Windsor. I went right over to the adult magazines. And I grabbed each and every one of the magazines and looked for those annoying little subscription cards that float around in any magazine. I took one from each of those, including the ones with names so dirty you’d think I made them up, so I won’t even bother with the nominal details. And I took them home and filled each and every one of those out, with my neighbor Bill’s name, address, and telephone number. And I checked the “Bill Me Later” box. Twenty-nine of those things. Only two needed a stamp, while the others had pre-paid postage.
A couple weeks ago, all of the subscriptions kicked in and started arriving on his door step at once. Monday, five arrived. Tuesday saw six more show up. Wednesday was slow, only two made it. Thursday picked up, though, and a whopping ten landed home. By Friday, the rest arrived. Bill was out of town on business for a few days, so the mail just collected outside his door. A few of the magazines were hidden behind black unmarked cellophane, but the vast majority shined in all their glossy what-you-see-what-you-get glory. When he and his girlfriend got back, she was the first one to find the stack and started sifting through it. Boy was she repulsed by his pornographic habit. He tried to explain himself, that he didn’t order those. But she knew he was full of it. He hasn’t had anyone over since. And I’ve been sleeping like a baby.
I know what you’re thinking — that they would never let any mail just keep stacking outside someone’s apartment door. Or that they don’t even deliver mail to the individual rooms, but to a box downstairs. Well you’ve never been to my apartment building, and that’s what I told my doctor, too, when he questioned me.
He’s been trying to push pills my way. When he isn’t pushing pills, he’s trying to get me to see a psychiatrist. I don’t need a shrink; they’re for crazy people. I’m not crazy, I tell him. I’m just an ordinary person who has extra-ordinary things happen to him. And sometimes I lie. So he tells me about this group called Liars Anonymous, and says I should check it out. So I do. And that’s why I’m here today, in front of all of you.
See, my name is Tony and I’m a liar.
All right, I’ll admit it – it’s Clint. Fine, it’s Paul…