The following short story is #30 in a year-long weekly writing effort where I have shared life events befitting the title of my blog site (www.aTimeinLife.wordpress.com). Each story attempts to touch the hearts of readers by sharing moments of joy, bits of sadness, inspiration, encouragement, and some life-lessons learned. The story below is my response to the following question asked by the “StoryWorth” project:
#30 – “Did you ever lie or withhold information when answering your parent’s questions?”
And now, without further ado, here’s the short story.
+ PACK TEACHES TWO BOYS LIFE LESSONS +
Billy was nine years old and his uncle, Alex, was twelve. They were like brothers and spent a lot of time together. The fact they lived about one mile from each other made getting together easy. It was just a four-minute bike ride on a straight highway between their houses.
When it came to intellectual capabilities, Alex was the shining star, but Billy wasn’t too far behind. Their creative minds could invent things the average child would never imagine. Most of the time their combined-creative talents had them doing good things—fun things, but there were also times when their scheming ways didn’t turn out too well. One such time involved a trip into the jungles along the Amazon River.
It all started on a hot summer day back in 1958 when this creative duo made a simple bike ride together from Alex’s house to Billy’s house. Along the way, Alex noticed something on the side of the road. To his surprise, it was a pack of cigarettes with the top already opened. There were twenty little tobacco stalks staring back at him. Alex’s eyes widen with the excitement of a twelve-year-old boy who had just found a sack of gold.
“Look at this, Billy. There are twenty cigarettes in this pack,” said Alex with a big grin stretching from ear to ear.
“Wow!” replied Billy. “My daddy smokes that kind. We can give them to him.”
“Are you crazy?” replied Alex. “We can do something better than that—I have an idea.”
“Whatcha talking about Alex?”
“You’ll see. Follow me!”
Off they went with Billy following Alex to where he did not know. They stopped in a wooded area one block behind Billy’s house.
“What are we gonna do here?” asked Billy.
“We are going to pretend we crash landed our jet fighter in the Amazon jungle. Let’s go to the pond back there in the woods. Come on, follow me!”
Still a bit uncertain, Billy let his bike fall to the ground and followed Alex further into the woods. When they arrived at the pond, Alex said, “Now we gonna play like we are jet pilots and our plane just crashed right over there,” as he pointed to a big oak tree at the water’s edge.
“Why are we gonna do that?” Billy asked.
“Cause we’re stranded and the only thing we have with us is this pack of cigarettes. We must evade the enemy, crocodiles, and snakes that are all around us. You know—we gotta try to survive until help comes to pick us up.”
With a puzzled look on his face, Billy replied, “Why we gonna do that? There ain’t any crocks or snakes around here, and there sure ain’t no enemy guys trying to catch us.”
“Billy, we gotta pretend! It’s a game and we gonna smoke these cigarettes too.”
“Alex, you know my daddy told me to never smoke cigarettes. He said he better not ever catch me smoking those things. He said they’d stunt my growth and I want to be tall like him.”
“He smokes ‘em Billy and hasn’t stunted his growth—he’s over six-feet tall. He’s just telling ya that so he can smoke ‘em all. It’s okay for us to do it too. Besides, he won’t know we smoked ‘em anyway. Come on—don’t be such a big scaredy-cat. It’ll be fun!”
“I ain’t no scaredy-cat!” barked Billy.
“Dang it, Billy! We don’t have any matches,” bemoaned Alex. “Billy, you gotta go to your house and get some matches.”
“You go get ‘em from your house, Alex.”
“Your house is closer, Billy. Go get ‘em and be quick about it. Oh yeah, and don’t go gettin’ caught either!”
Billy ran through the “jungle” to his bike and headed toward his house. He wasn’t too sure about the plan Alex had come up with, but he didn’t want Alex to get mad at him either. He went into his house and found his mother in the kitchen. This posed a bit of a problem and his creative mind started swirling.
“What are you doing here, Billy? I thought you were with Alex.”
“I am. He’s… um… he’s up the street waiting for me. I had to go to the bathroom.”
Billy didn’t know what to do at this point. How was he going to get matches out of the house without his mother noticing what he was doing? Quite the quandary for a nine-year-old kid, especially when he knew what he was about to do was wrong.
He went to the bathroom and peeked around the door to make sure his mother was still in the kitchen. Seeing that she was, he tiptoed down the hallway to his parent’s bedroom. Surely, there are some matches in the bedroom somewhere. He began searching quietly and found some matches in the third drawer he opened. He quickly put them in his pocket so his mother wouldn’t see them.
As he started walking toward the door, his mama walked into the bedroom. “What are you doing in my bedroom, Billy?”
“Um… um… I thought I saw a mouse run in here,” Billy replied in a panicky tone.
“A mouse!” yelled his mother as she jumped onto her bed. “Where? You have to find it! You know I’m scared to death of those things! Find it, Billy! Get it out of here!”
Billy pretended he was looking for the critter under the bed and in the closet while his mother stood on the bed. “Get that critter out of the house!” she pleaded.
“I think he gotta way, Mama. You probably scared him away with all the noise you made. I think it’s safe for you to get off the bed now.”
“Are you sure it’s safe?”
“Yes, Ma’am. I gotta go now. See ya later, Mama.”
Billy ran out the back door in a flash. He knew he had just dodged a bullet and was right proud of himself for thinking up the mouse tale so quickly. He was also glad he didn’t have to clean up a nasty mess in his underwear.
When he got back to the pond, Alex asked what took him so long.
“I almost got caught by Mama, and had to look for a mouse.”
“Mouse? Whatcha talking ‘bout, Billy?”
“You don’t wanna know. Here are the matches.”
“Good! Take one out of the pack. It’s time to light these bad boys up!”
Billy did as Alex told him. He put a cigarette in his mouth and lit a match. One big inhale and Billy started coughing his head off.
As Billy continued hacking and coughing, Alex laughed and said, “What’s the matter big boy? You aren’t supposed to inhale the smoke—just puff it like this,” as a trail of smoke came from Alex’s mouth. “See, it’s easy.”
Billy puffed again and immediately started hacking, but now he had tears flowing down his cheeks. He continued puffing until he got the hang of it. It wasn’t long before he was puffing and flicking the ashes off like a seasoned smoker.
“This is pretty cool, Alex. Can you blow smoke rings like my daddy?”
“You mean like this?” as Alex blew a perfect circle of smoke out of his mouth.
“Stick ya finger in the circle, Billy.”
As instructed, Billy put his finger through the little circle and said, “That’s so cool. I don’t know how to do that, but my daddy can.”
Billy and Alex continued playing in the woods and evading the enemy until all the cigarettes were gone—all twenty of them. Having successfully evaded the dangers lurking in the Amazon jungle, they decided it was time to go home. They’d had enough fun for the day. Alex went home to his house. Billy went to his and started playing with his bow and arrow in the garage until he heard his mama shout that super was ready.
Billy sat quietly at the table eating with his mother, father, and little sister. After a few minutes, Dad asked, “What did you do today, Billy?”
Billy paused in thought and replied, “Not much—Alex came to the house and we rode our bikes through the neighborhood.”
Shortly after Billy finished his answer, the telephone rang. His Dad answered the phone, “Hello,” and then stood there quietly looking straight toward Billy. After a few moments of silence, he said, “I see. Thank you for letting me know about it. I hope he’s okay”
When he came back to the table, he looked directly at Billy, and asked, “Billy, do you have anything else you need to tell me about what you and Alex did this afternoon?”
Not being astute enough to realize his father was giving him a chance to come clean, Billy responded without looking up from his plate, “No, Sir. We just rode our bikes and messed around some—nothing special.”
“Is that your final answer, son?”
What did y’all do on the empty lot on Dantzler Street?”
“Oh, we pretended we crashed our plane in the jungle and had to hide from the enemy.”
“What about the pack you and Alex found on the side of St. Matthews Road?”
“What pack, Dad? I mean…”
“That was Granddaddy talking to me on the phone just now. He said y’all found a pack of cigarettes on the side of the road. Is that true?”
“Oh, you mean that pack. Yeah, we saw it when we were riding our bikes to my house.”
“Do you have something else you need to tell me about that pack of cigarettes? Before you answer my question, I’ll tell you that Alex is in the bed—he’s sick—he thinks he’s been poisoned.”
“Why does Alex think he’s been poisoned, Dad?”
“Billy, it was something in the cigarettes. Are you feeling sick also? Do you have something else you want to tell me about what you did this afternoon?”
“I feel fine, Dad. I’m not sick. I’d tell you if I was sick.”
Okay, Billy. I’ve given you several chances to tell me everything about your afternoon and you keep withholding information from me.”
“But Dad, I…”
“I don’t want to hear it now, Billy. You had your chances to tell me everything. Now, I’m going to tell you what Alex told his dad. He said the two of you found an opened pack of cigarettes on the roadside and you took matches from this house. Y’all went to the lot on Dantzler St. and both of you smoked the entire pack of cigarettes. Y’all left the lot after smoking the cigarettes and then went home. Is that what happened?”
“Umm… I think so, but I’m not sick, Dad.”
“Well, Billy, I’m glad you’re not sick. Y’all did a very dumb thing today and both of you could have been poisoned to death. You should never smoke cigarettes in the first place, but you should never smoke cigarettes you find on the roadside. You don’t know what someone may have done to them. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
“I want you to know that I’m very disappointed in you. First of all, for withholding information when answering my questions, and secondly, for smoking the cigarettes when you knew it was wrong. Now, finish eating and then go to your room. Think about what you did today and I’ll come in to see you shortly.”
Okay, that’s enough about a boy failing to tell the truth and trying to withhold information from his parents or anyone else for that matter. I’ll let you use your imagination regarding the punishment Alex and Billy received in this particular instance. I’m sure you have a good idea about what happened to both boys.
- Be honest with yourself—have you ever or would you lie or withhold information from your parents or anyone else?
- How would you handle a similar situation if your child did something like Alex and Billy did?
++++ LESSON LEARNED ++++
The moral of this story is simple. Always tell the truth and never withhold information from those you love when you do something you shouldn’t have done. You must face the consequences of your actions. Man up or woman up, whichever the case may be for you.
Oh, there’s one final adjustment you should make to this story—change the names from Alex to Charles, Billy to Tommy, and understand the dad in the story was my father—then you have a true story from my youth about a life-lesson I learned the hard way.
The good that resulted from this deception attempt was I never withheld information or tried to deceive my dad again. Having him tell me he was disappointed with me was more than enough for me to change my ways.
Many blessings to you as you continue your journey through life and possibly have children of your own. I wish you nothing but the best in all you do, but don’t forget about the consequences of your actions. They can have dramatic impacts on your future.
++++++++++ END OF STORY ++++++++++
Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/tomtatum
Facebook page: Tom Tatum novels
Blog website: www.aTimeinLife.wordpress.com