Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Learning to Lie

Today at Two Writing Teachers Blog, Tara Smith issued the Slice of Life (SOL) challenge.  Here's my slice of life story.


The day I took my mom's rose-gold bracelet remains with me as if those events happened a breath away, not decades earlier.  I was 10 and determined to follow my older brothers as they and their friends walked down the block to the gully. The gully was a deep ravine that ran between two houses on the block.  It was a place kids in the neighborhood played during the day and teenagers lurked at night.  The gully served as a run off from the water sewer for the street above ours.  At the north end of the gully was a large pipe a ten-year-old could walk into.  It was the dare of the neighborhood. Walk into the pipe alone and then walk through it until you came to the block above, stand beneath the sewer grate, yell you were there, and then pick up the baseball that had been left there. Meanwhile, some of the kids would run up to the street and be waiting there, looking down to see if you had made it and had gotten the baseball. To finish the dare, you had to return with the ball in hand.

This meant walking in the dark through an enclosed space. Who knew what lived inside that pipe. It also was often slick with a trickle of water. It was a dare I had yet to do, even though my brothers had done it.

Earlier that day I had been looking through the top draw of my mom's bureau and found the blue jewelry box once again. I didn't know the significance of that box at that time but would later come to recognize Tiffany & Co. that was stamped on its lid.  But that day I was ignorant and needy and wanted that bracelet on my wrist. I wanted to show it off to Debbie Green who lived next door. I wanted to pretend it was mine.

The bracelet was pink with a series of small clusters of roses linked together and a slim latch.  I loved it.  And I took it, pushing my ten-year-old hand through and seeing the bracelet settle on my wrist, a bit too loosely. I pushed it up my arm only to see it resettle and made my way down the stairs and outside.  I went to Debbie's to show her the bracelet, but she wasn't home.  I decided to wait outside, admiring how the bracelet looked.  It was just a little later when I saw my brothers, my best friend, Tommy Lane, and the other neighborhood boys walking down the street towards the gully.

Now I had a rep as a bit of a tomboy. Truth was a lot of things I did scared me, but not being able to hang with my brothers scared me more. I lived on a block with mostly boys. And so I followed my brothers to the gully and as I made my way down I tripped on a tree root and fell, slicing my knee open on some broken glass. None of us were suppose to play in the gully.  That was a rule.  So it wasn't such a surprise that my brothers told me to be quiet and one wrapped his t-shirt around my knee.

Just some blood, they'd tell me.
Stop being a baby.
Just say you fell outside when we get home. 

As we made our way to the pipe, Tommy asked me if I was going to finally take the dare.

You gonna do it? 

I must have looked unsure standing there with my older brother's white t-shirt wrapped around my bloody knee.

You don't have to, you know.

Tommy was one of my best friends and I knew that he had done it, at least two years earlier. Both my brothers had done it. All of their friends had climbed through that tunnel. Only Oliver and me were left. And on that Saturday in May, Oliver who was afraid of everything, was spending the weekend with his father.

Yeah, I'm gonna do it.
Doesn't count if you don't come back with the ball, Mickey warned.  He was a mean kid who grew up to be a mean man.

When you get past the curve it will get light again, Tommy told me.  Go about 20 more feet and you'll see the sewer grate above you.  The ball should be there. Get it and come right back.

There's something to be said about the dark, about the unknown. As I entered the pipe, I was feeling brave with the light, telling myself I could do this. As I made my way up the pipe and the sound of the boys laughing and talking receded  I thought about the beavers I had seen earlier that year when Jo Ellen, Tommy's older sister and I went bird watching with the Rivets.  I remembered the beavers. I remembered the surprise I felt when I saw how large they were and how they lived in dams in water and I wondered if there were any beavers living in this pipe. It got so dark that even the bright white of my brother's t-shirt could not be seen. I thought I heard a noise, a skittering sound, and that fear sent me running towards my brothers and Tommy, my arms pumping as I ran back towards where they had been.

It wouldn't be until later.

It wouldn't be until after I suffered the humiliation of being called a baby and listening as Mickey taunted me and as Tommy told him off that I would notice that the shiny pink bracelet I loved was no longer on my wrist. It was gone.

That night I told my mom nothing and hoped she wouldn't notice the bracelet was gone. I found some peroxide and oversized bandages and cleaned my cut. It was deep and in hindsight most likely needed a few stitches. Even today, the slim whitened scar remains.

The next day, instead of going to church, Tommy and I went back to the gully to see if we could find the bracelet. I had told no one I had lost it except him. He had some matches with him and once we got inside the pipe he lit them so we could see.

I bet it fell off when I turned and ran back.

We walked on and looked and looked but did not find the bracelet. We used the entire book of matches. It was gone.

Maybe you lost it when you fell.
Yeah, maybe.

As we climbed up the gully, I found part of the bracelet by a rock. It was dirty. Tommy found the rest of it a few feet away. He put it in  my hand. The bracelet was in two pieces.

Must have broken when you fell.

What're you gonna do?
Not sure.

It as only a short walk back home.  I left Tommy at his house and made my way down the street. When I got in my mom was making Sunday breakfast as she did each week.

Church over already?

I climbed the stairs and opened the draw, taking out the blue box. I brushed off the remaining specks of dirt and looked at the pieces.  I knew it was a gift that my Da had given her. I knew it was special even if I didn't know Tiffany & Co.  She often wore it at Christmas. I lifted the two pieces and could smell her perfume. To this day, Channel No. 5 reminds me of the day I learned to lie.


  1. Did she ever know you took it? What happened when she found it missing? Great story but I want more :)