The Next Day Part 4

April 6th, 2012 by Wordsman

Peter’s mom had no objection to him spending the night, because it is the secret goal of every mother to get her children to spend as many of their hours as possible under her roof.  As soon as dinner was over, she set about fixing up the living room couch for him.  Peter’s old room had been converted into what his father called a “study,” which was basically code for “book storage.”  His father owned more books than some small libraries; storing them was a never-ending, Sisyphean battle.  His mother—who had nothing against books, per se—would always try to get rid of some at garage sales, but Dad would always snatch them up before anyone else could get their hands on them (really, it was a doomed strategy to begin with, because the average garage sale patron would have no interest in the kind of books he tended to collect).

“But you haven’t read that one in thirty years!” Mom would cry.  Dad would just give her a look to say that she had completely missed the point.

Peter’s sleeping in the living room immediately after dinner did not present a problem either.  Mr. and Mrs. Hamlin were both believers in the “Early to bed, early to rise” system, and it had ended up being a late meal anyway.  Dizzy’s schedule was considerably more irregular, but she was going out with her friends.  She did not go out directly, though.

“You lied to Mom.”

Peter was lying on the couch, scratching Cicero, who was making a rare appearance.  Earlier in the day he would have been in no mood for this kind of banter, but dinner had refreshed him.  “What do you think I lied about?”

“Any number of things.”  Dizzy was leaning on the back of the couch; her preposterous amount of hair was draped down onto it.  A casual flick of her head would easily have sent Cicero scampering back to the safety of the basement.  It might even have knocked Peter clean off the couch.  “Your saying that you were late to dinner because you were stuck at work didn’t have a lot of verisimilitude.  But I’m talking specifically about why you borrowed her flute.”

The flute had not been a subject of major inquiry at the dinner table.  Mom had started off by telling him that he looked like he wasn’t eating or sleeping enough (and, on this particular occasion, she was quite right).  Then she had demanded—politely, of course—an explanation for his lateness.  Much later on, and quite casually, she had inquired regarding the whereabouts of her flute.  Equally casually, Peter had responded that he felt the sudden urge to try playing again, and that he was considering taking lessons, and that he had borrowed the flute to practice a little, so as not to completely embarrass himself in front of a new teacher.

“Now, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with lying to your parents,” continued Inspector Dizzy.  “I certainly do it all the time.  It’s how the system works.  But I don’t think it’s fair to let you go around thinking that you’re actually getting away with it.”

“Mom seemed to take me at my word.”

“She’s your mother.  It’s her job.  She’s been pretending to take you seriously since before you knew how to talk.  I don’t think she believed you any more than I did.  She just was too polite to say anything about it.”

“Whereas you, clearly, are not.”

“No such thing as politeness between siblings.”

“Nor honor among thieves.”  The average person, when caught in a lie, thinks he has two options: cover it up with another lie, or give up and tell the truth.  A cleverer person knows about option three: cover up the lie with truth.  “I needed the flute to help a friend.”  Okay, so the “friend” part may have been a bit of a stretch, but the rest was true.

The mountain of hair shifted.  Cicero skedaddled.  “What kind of friend could you help by playing the flute for him?”

Peter decided not to comment on the “him.”  “So I’m really that awful, huh?”

“I never said that.”

This was true.  In all their years of good-natured (well, largely good-natured) sibling rivalry, Dizzy had never once insulted his musical talent.  Peter’s decision to give up on the flute was more about what people didn’t say than what they did.

Rather than thank his sister for her years of silent support—or at least, years of not actively trying to sabotage his confidence—he decided to go with another obscuring truth: “Did I say anything about playing it?”

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