I believe that the act of lying is often its own punishment. Fortunately, I learned this at a very early age.
When I was in second grade, Show and Tell was king. Every afternoon, Mrs. Schwartz would set aside Sharing Time. Little did she know that Show and Tell at Mamaroneck Avenue School had turned into a competition.
The competition became too fierce when Jeffrey Siegel brought in his GI Joe with the Kung Fu grip. The Kung Fu grip was brand new and everyone wanted one, everyone. Not to be outdone, I raised my hand to share my own “tell.” Now, life as a second grader was mostly uneventful, so I blurted out that my younger brother was hit by a car and it was very serious. It was a total lie.
But it worked! Jeffrey’s GI Joe was forgotten. All of the attention was now focused on me. Even Mrs. Schwartz was showering me with sympathy.
Life was good for exactly one day. The next morning, I was caught off guard when Mrs. Schwartz asked me how my brother was doing. Although she was barely taller than her students, that day she seemed to tower over me. I was going to have to lie again; “Oh, he just lies around mostly.”
Every day, it was another lie. To make matters worse, Mrs. Schwartz started giving me things to bring home for my poor suffering brother: modeling clay, puzzle books, crayons.
Since I could not explain this newfound loot to my mother without additional lies, I would throw these “gifts” down the sewer on my walk home. Living the life of a liar was becoming unendurable.
My house of lies was about to come crumbling down. There was no escaping Parent-Teacher Conference Night. I went to bed that night knowing that my life as I knew it was over. My stomach in knots, I tossed and turned on the top bunk until I saw the headlights pull into the driveway. My Dudley-Do-Right sheets were damp with sweat as I heard my mother come up the stairs. Knowing I would be awake, my mother crept into my room and said simply, “Quite the little storyteller, aren’t you?”
I swallowed hard. I was about to make a meager attempt at explaining myself, but before I could, my mother told me to go to sleep and that we would talk about it in the morning.
During breakfast the next day, it was not brought up. There was no mention of the lie, the Kung Fu grip, or even the “lost” sympathy gifts. When I arrived at school, I sheepishly walked into the classroom. Mrs. Schwartz eyed me from the back of the class and gave me a big smile and a wink! My lie was never mentioned again.
Although I did not receive an official punishment for my “big tell,” it would be months before I would tell a lie again. Living each day having to tell lie upon lie was punishment enough. So, even when Jeffrey Seigel brought in his talking Planet of the Apes doll, I remained quiet at my seat.