Tommy learns that lying has consequences, especially lying to his mother.
But has he really learned his lesson?
Tommy lay with his arms stretched out, doing nothing more than watch shapes form and drift apart in the clouds overhead. It was a lazy summer afternoon, and for a twelve year old boy it couldn't be a more perfect day. No school, no chores, nothing to do. Just lay back and feel the warm breeze and listen to the murmuring of the creek below.
Like most twelve year old boys, Tommy suffered from the malady Rapid-Onset Boredom. So after a few minutes he sat up and walked to the edge of the cliff that overlooked Kettleman’s Creek. Now, to say it was a cliff was perhaps a bit of an exaggeration. From the top edge to the bottom it was a moderately steep slope of just under six feet. But for a twelve year old boy a cliff is a cliff, no matter its height. A trail ran along the base of the cliff and a bramble of blackberry bushes grew along the creek.
Tommy knew his mother would love some of the blackberries. She might even make a blackberry pie. That thought helped him decide to scramble down the cliff so he could pick some berries. He took care to stay away from the creek. If he got his sneakers wet his mother would be very unhappy. Shoes were expensive, and these were new and supposed to last him through the upcoming school year.
He took off his t-shirt to use as sort of a sling to hold the blackberries. He made sure that he avoided the thorns that protected the berries from anyone who wanted to pick them, and soon had collected several dozen large blackberries. As he picked the riper berries the juice would run down his fingers and he’d stop to lick them. The juice was sweet and delicious. That tempted him to eat one or two of the blackberries. They were even better.
The sun beat down on Tommy’s bare shoulders. To cool off he stopped picking, put his berry filled t-shirt on some rocks at the back of the trail, stepped to the edge of the water, and squatted. He dipped his hands into the cold water and washed off the sticky juice. He looked at his hands and giggled because they still had purple stains from the juice, and he knew his tongue and t-shirt were stained just as purple. He splashed the cold creek water on his shoulders. It felt so good that he splashed water on his face and head as well.
As he shook his head to help it dry he heard a noise in back of him. He turned and saw a squirrel sitting next to his t-shirt, putting a blackberry in its mouth. Tommy yelled, “Get outta there you darn thief!” and waved his arms. As he started to stand his right foot slipped and both feet slid into the creek. He quickly scrambled back onto the trail.
“DAMN!” Tommy looked at his shoes, which were definitely soaked. “Oh, man, Mom’s gonna really yell at me ‘bout not being careful and getting my new shoes wet,” he said out loud to himself.
He pulled off his shoes to assess the damage. They weren’t muddy or otherwise damaged, they were just wet. His socks were wet as well. “Gotta dry these shoes so Mom won’t know I got ‘em wet.”
The day had become much hotter, so he set his shoes and socks on the rocks where he thought they’d get the most sun. A large oak tree grew just above the trail a short distance further along the creek. It would provide shade for both Tommy and the blackberries. He made sure there were no anthills near where he planned to sit, then that’s what he did, with his back leaning against the tree and the t-shirt full of blackberries on the ground next to him where no squirrel would dare try to steal any of them.
Enough time had gone by that Tommy decided to check his socks and found that they had dried. His shoes were still damp, but he figured they’d be okay by the time he got home. His mom would never have to know he’d slipped into the creek. Now for the blackberries. He gathered up the corners of his t-shirt, picked a few more berries, then headed home.
It took him over an hour. Hey, he’s twelve years old and there were a lot of distractions along the way, mostly friends of his. Of course, he had to tell his tale to each one of them, and of course each wanted to try some of those blackberries. Tommy refused to share, saying that they were his mom’s blackberries. But, he told them, they could go with him to Kettleman’s Creek the next day to collect their own blackberries and eat all they wanted, and maybe even have some to take home. Each of his friends agreed about the time and the place to meet, so their next summer day was all planned.
Tommy knew his mom would be in the kitchen starting to fix their supper. He grinned as he thought about how excited she would be when she saw all of the blackberries he had picked.
“HI, Mom! I’m home and I’ve got a big surprise for you!”
“Hi, Tommy. Where’ve you been all day? And what kind of surprise do you have for me?”
Tommy put the bundle on the sink.
“I picked you this huge bunch of blackberries. There’s enough here to make a blackberry pie, even two pies, I think.”
“That’s wonderful, Tommy.” She put the blackberries into a large collander. “Oh, my, that is a lot of blackberries! I think there’s more than enough for two pies, and I’ll get to that in a few minutes. Now, let’s sit down and you can have a glass of milk and a cookie and you tell me about your day and how you were able to find all of these blackberries.”
And that’s what Tommy did. Thing is, he didn’t quite tell the entire story. He carefully left out the parts about his wet shoes and socks.
When he finished Tommy got up and started to take his now empty glass to the sink. His mother looked at him, at his shoes, and then stared at him eye-to-eye.
‘Uh oh!’ Tommy thought. ‘Somehow Mom’s caught on that I got my shoes wet.’
“So, you didn’t get your shoes wet. Is that right?”
Tommy wondered if he should lie and say that he didn’t get his shoes wet. He decided against that. He could feel that they were still damp inside, so if she checked them she’d know. Fessing up would be the right thing and the only thing to do.
“Maybe I did get my shoes a little wet. My foot slipped when I was scaring away that squirrel, and my feet went into the creek, but just for a second or two, and I pulled them right out and took off my shoes and socks and set them in the hot sun and they dried.”
“Well, now you know you should have told me that right off. You told me a lie with no need to do so. If you’d told me the truth I would have understood that you just had an accident.”
“But Mom, I didn’t really tell you a lie. I just left that part out of my story.”
“Tommy, what you did is called a lie of omission. That means by leaving out something important you’re really telling a lie.”
“But wouldn’t that be a fib instead of a lie?”
“A fib is just a lie with a different name. A lie is a lie, even if it’s sugar coated with some fancy name like fib.”
“Now, what are we going to do about this? I told you to be careful and not get your new shoes wet. You did get them wet, though as the result of an accident. I would have forgiven you for that if you’d told me about it. But instead you lied to me by not telling me you got your shoes wet. Do you understand that?”
“I do, Mom. I’m sorry. You’re gonna punish me, right?”
“Don’t you think I should?”
“Yeah. I guess.” Tommy hung his head, and wouldn’t look at his mom. “What’s my punishment gonna be, Mom?”
“Well, you brought home all of these wonderful blackberries, and I’m going to bake them into two blackberry pies. I know you’re going to want to have a big slice of fresh blackberry pie after supper tonight, in fact you’re going to want to have two big slices of fresh blackberry pie for your dessert. Am I right?”
“Yes, Mom.” Tommy knew what his mom would decide. No blackberry pie for his dessert tonight. That would be like the worst possible punishment. But he had to agree it was the right kind of punishment for lying. He looked up at his mom.
“Well, then here’s what I’m going to do. As I already said, you did pick and bring home all of these wonderful blackberries. So...”
Tommy took a deep breath and let it out as a sigh.
“...you can have one slice of fresh blackberry pie for dessert tonight, but not two.”
Tommy’s grin felt so wide that he wasn’t sure it would fit in the whole kitchen.
“Thank you, Mom! You’re the best!”
He threw himself at her and they hugged. Finally she pushed him out of her arms and held his shoulders, looking at him. “I don’t remember thanking you for the blackberries, Tommy. So, thank you!”
“You’re welcome, Mom.”
“You’re a good boy, Tommy. Let this be a lesson for you. Remember that good boys never lie. Especially to their mom who loves them so much.”
“I love you too, Mom. And I’ll remember about being a good boy and not lying.”
His mom couldn’t see that Tommy held his right hand behind his back with his fingers crossed. She couldn’t know what Tommy thought, either.
‘Dad always says you gotta keep your options open. So I’m gonna keep my options open just in case, and that means good boys seldom lie.’
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