March 01, 2005

pants on fire

When I was a kid, I was something of a liar. I didn’t deal in little, “it wasn’t me!” white lies, either. I’m talking whoppers. Exaggerations, intricate, convoluted stories that took their birth more from my whirling, over-productive imagination than a desire to deceive anyone.

There was that time the family went camping and I caught a fish with my bare hands. No, really, I did. We were all playing in the river and…

There was a similar story involving a deer.

The thing about my tall tales is that, when it came down to it, I was a really, really lousy liar. My stories were hardly believable and what’s more, when caught in them, I lacked the grace to back down and admit that perhaps, it had been all in my head. I simply had no talent for lying. None at all. Not like Tyler Cope.

Tyler Cope lived around the block in one of those brown brick, split-level houses with a steep yard. Smaller than the other boys, he had floppy dishwater hair, hand-me down shoes and an imagination that rivaled – or rather, outperformed mine in an endless display of embarrassing hijinx. I have vivid memories of the summer he dragged his little red wagon around the neighborhood selling rocks (magic rocks mind you). The kid you didn’t invite over, he was irritating and somehow, always around. There was Tyler playing Encyclopedia Brown, spying on us from the behind the neighbor’s fence. And Tyler in the front yard making flour by grinding wheat on the tires of his upended Huffy. He was ubiquitous.

Until he was kidnapped.

The word flew through the neighborhood, mother to mother, over phone lines and backyard fences. Tyler Cope had been kidnapped. The attempted abduction – attempted, because in what our mothers were calling a ‘blessing,’ he’d managed to get away – left us with a fear of windowless vans and an awe for the bravery of little Tyler Cope. If we were terrified, our parents were paranoid. No more bike riding. No more Kick-the-Can after dark. Those of us who walked to school were quickly swept up into carpools. The neighborhood was on full alert.

Until Tyler cracked.

Maybe there’d been a Sunday school lesson about lying that week. Or maybe, Tyler was getting a little tired of being in lockdown with his crazy, frazzled mother. Word flew though the neighborhood that the abduction was nothing more than a product of Tyler Cope’s hyperactive imagination, making him a legend. And a pariah. The distinction lasted for years. YEARS. Nobody danced with Tyler at the sixth grade Halloween dance.

The Great Tyler Cope Lie highlighted the stark limits of my own lying abilities. So, aside from the occasional “Sick” day, I no longer even try. I know when I’ve been bested.

Posted by This Fish at March 1, 2005 11:47 AM

wow -- i would've never thought to lie about something like that. tyler cope is the lie king. i also lied about catching fish with my hands, and finding jars of gel that when applied to your skin made you invisible. neat, huh? :)

Posted by: red at March 1, 2005 12:20 PM

apparently some guy that goes to school with me lied in second grade about some guy sexually abusing him... that guy has since been serving time in juvi.

Posted by: meer at March 1, 2005 12:27 PM

The overactive imagination thing sometimes happens to me. Usually, it's quite helpful in making up elaborate stories for kids, joking around with friends...but, otherwise I don't use it much. I suppose I'm a bit too much of the old "honesty's the best policy"-line...

Posted by: Tami at March 1, 2005 12:39 PM

Wow- quite a story... brings back alot of childhood prank memories. Thanks.

Posted by: Keely at March 1, 2005 12:54 PM

I was given a t-shirt when I was about 7 years old for a fictional chimney sweep company. To add validity to why I had it, I told all my classmates that my uncle owned the company and that he and his children were chimney sweepers like in Mary Poppins. Everyone believed me until I had a slumber party and they asked my mom about it. I was caught in my lie.

Posted by: Sunshine(kvb) at March 1, 2005 12:55 PM

enjoyable little story... thanks.

Posted by: Wendi at March 1, 2005 12:59 PM

My lying career began and ended when i tried to convince my kindergarten teacher that I'd been run over by a truck that morning, but had had the luck to be able to lie down on the asphalt and have it woosh over me without a scratch.

Her belly laugh was not the reaction I was after, and that was the end of that. :)

Posted by: Mathieu at March 1, 2005 01:03 PM

I was quite a fine liar in my time as well, although certainly not in Tyler's league.

When I was younger, I concocted a wonderful and exotic life for myself and my family in Hawaii. I learned how to speak Hawaiian and told stories about giving away leis at the airport. And about my pet parrot.

I was so good at it my best friend's mother asked my mother about how it was to live in Hawaii. Oops.

I've since learned to confine my fabrications to things that cannot be confirmed independently.

Posted by: Megan at March 1, 2005 01:25 PM

I attended an event this week which required jumping into a lake. One guy came out with a fish in hand. Upon further investigation he had lost his shoe and when he picked it back up there was a rather sizeable large mouth bass in there. Not quite catching it by hand, but close enough.

Posted by: Matt at March 1, 2005 02:06 PM

I once told this boy I know that I'm from Alaska, adopted from Romania, and that my father owns a cannery and I have four each of brothers and sisters. The whole time, I expected him to say, "really?" and I would say, "no." But he bought it wholeheartedly and soon I was looking up street maps of Juneau and searching for English-Romanian dictionaries so as to further embellish.

Lying is fun. Tyler Cope is my hero.

Posted by: janna at March 1, 2005 02:17 PM

I HAVE caught a fish with my bare hands...actually many. Sucker fish that used to swim in the creek behind my house when I was a kid. They were big and slow and in shallow water so they were easy to catch with your hands. :)

Posted by: Robin Alexa at March 1, 2005 03:03 PM

I've never caught a fish with my hands, but I've taken a baby sand shark off a hook that someone else used to catch it.

I don't recommend that, by the way.

-- "Lefty"

Posted by: Lex at March 1, 2005 03:33 PM

damn, that's like the mother of all lies

Posted by: ak at March 1, 2005 03:50 PM

I used to lie all the time. Now I write software doc. Same thing I guess.

Posted by: NEIN at March 1, 2005 04:05 PM

Hahaha...this sounds alot like a great movie along the lines of Sandlot or something!
I was a fantastic liar when I was favorite lie? That my dad was a cop...riiiight. I can tell you I was NEVER messed with growing up.

Posted by: Jasika at March 1, 2005 04:58 PM

My favorite confabulation lie is from years ago when I lived in what would become the East Village. I was at the phone company offices having yet another problem, which is probably what put me in the head to do this. I was reading Lord of the Rings, but I forget which volume. In one of the interminable waits -- this is before computers -- I was playing eye-footsie with a cute girl who was also waiting.

She made the first move and asked about the book, which she had heard of but not read -- this is also before Peter Jackson movies. "What's it about?" she wondered.

I'd had it with the phone company and was going stir crazy. "It's about death," I answered gravely. Her eyes got big.

We talked for about half an hour, and I managed to convince her that the dominant theme of modern culture was, in fact, death, and that Thanatos lay behind our every celebration of life and growth. She ate it up.

I probably should have married her; my bad. As it happened I never saw her again, but it was a notable skim.

Posted by: Linus at March 1, 2005 05:03 PM

Sorry, I have to leave this one annonymously because if I didn't, my husband would absolutely KILL ME. And then he'd probably kill himself too because he still gets SO embarassed by it.
When we were dating, he piqued my interest in him by telling me he worked for the CIA doing secret drug busts at our university. Said he was in charge of the recording bugs that were in our dormitory laundry rooms and theatre and had to screen the recorded conversations looking for "code words" that indicated a drug meeting being set up. He would occasionally inform me about a bust that had taken place in this dormatory or that but could never mention names because it was SO TOP SECRET.
That's the only thing he's ever lied to me about and he finally fessed up but it wasn't until after we were engaged. He still carries guilt about it and if I bring it up he gets totally mortified.
He said he was just trying to come up with a way to get me to notice him. I hate to admit it but I guess it worked.

Posted by: Girl1 at March 1, 2005 05:28 PM

My dad was in the airforce. As a kid I convinced a girlfriend that I was born mid air on a 747. She fully believed me until I fell about pissing myself laughing! : )

Posted by: Denise at March 1, 2005 06:07 PM

"When I was a kid, I was something of a liar"

...For all we know this could be a lie!


Posted by: Lost Cat at March 1, 2005 06:48 PM

I like to hear lies about people who say they're in the CIA. It makes it easier for those of us who really ARE in the CIA to maintain our cover.

Posted by: Smitty at March 1, 2005 09:19 PM

What about implied lies. You wouldn't have danced with him anyway.

Posted by: some guy at March 1, 2005 11:32 PM

Funny, I thought that it was bicycles you caught, not fish... :)

Posted by: Frankenstein at March 2, 2005 12:08 AM

When I was in Grade One my bestest friends Jenny and Glenna and I decided that we wanted to be mermaids (thank you, Splash!). So we formed a "mermaid club" and we decided the best way to turn into mermaids would be to take baths everynight and pour salt into the baths. Then we'd get together at school and all talk about how, as soon as we stepped into the bath, our legs turned into GLORIOUS tails, just like Darryl Hannah's. I was so upset that I was the ONLY one not REALLY turning into a mermaid that I lied and lied and lied again, about the colour of my tail, the size of my tail, everything... It took me a while to figure out Jenny & Glenna were lying too...

Posted by: adrianne at March 2, 2005 08:20 AM

AK: It was a *baby* shark. (But the part about being called "Lefty" was a lie.) My 4-year-old son, who saw it, tells his friends that when we were at the beach last year, "Daddy caught a shark with his bare hands!" And I guess I could correct him, but ....

Posted by: Lex at March 2, 2005 08:54 AM

Thanks for the post. Got me thinking about the time I was probably 4 or 5 and some guy came to our front door and asked if my parents were home. I said NO and he opened the door and handed me A FLY SWATTER! (It had his name on it.) I lied to my mom and told her that I found it on the doorstoop. But for some reason, this is one of my earliest memories. It pretty well freaked me out!

Posted by: Last Girl On Earth at March 2, 2005 10:49 AM

Thats crazy

Posted by: ali at March 2, 2005 12:23 PM

Encyclopedia Brown. What a great reference. I forgot all about him.

On a band road trip a few years ago, one of the singers convinced a girl to sleep with him by telling her he was an English professor at a well respected university (he was an elevator repair tech.)...Imagine her surprise 9 months later when she went to surprise her baby's daddy at the university, who'd never heard of him...

Posted by: dave at March 3, 2005 06:41 PM