Collectively lying

Rick Ryckeley

Fabricator, fibber, storyteller, or deceiver — call it what you may. Not telling the truth by any other name means you are a liar. And lying was almost the worse thing you could do if you lived on that old familiar street not so far away called Flamingo.

No matter what bad thing my three brothers, The Sister or me did, if we lied about it, it was the lie that we got punished for. Let’s look at just some of the bad things we kids did while growing up and you, Dear Reader, decide. Was doing the bad thing more grievous than the lie that followed?

Was pulling heads off all of The Sister’s Barbie dolls and using them in place of rocks in our slingshots a bad thing to do? Yes. But according to Dad, our lying about doing it was worse. At least, that’s what he said watching us searching through the woods trying to retrieve all of those far-flung Barbie heads.

It was the first collective lie my brothers and I told during those seven years living on Flamingo, but there were a few more. And we were punished for all of them … one way or another.

The coconut from our church’s Hawaiian luau had been left outside next to a trashcan. What harm could come from our playing with a discarded coconut? That July day was hotter than most as we played the first ever street football game using a coconut football. Every kid on Flamingo either played in or watched the game.

The game ended after only an hour when we decided to smash the football and drink the milk inside. Soon after Dad came home, he saw the smashed coconut at the end of the driveway and asked, “Where did y’all get the coconut?”

My brothers and I replied, “We found it in the woods.” Dad didn’t believe our story. God didn’t either. Everyone who drank from the stolen coconut football was punished that night by getting sick. Guess drinking from a discarded church coconut next to a trashcan after using the coconut as a football in the hot July sun and then lying about it wasn’t a good idea after all.

Even so, we hadn’t yet learned our lesson. There was one more lie my brothers and I collectively told while living on Flamingo. A lie told by eight frightened kids at midnight. And it was a doozy.

The fire raged out of control for over an hour, spreading from Neighbor Thomas’s backyard to the vacant lot next door and then to ours. My brothers and I had run into our house and awakened our parents after the third failed attempt in stopping the blaze.

In a disbelieving daze as to what their children had done, they called the fire department. From our back deck, we looked on as a brave band of firefighters fought the blaze.

The Great Marshmallow War had started harmlessly enough with a single flaming marshmallow flung by Yours Truly. Thirty minutes later, while trying to put an end to the war, my marshmallow torch started the fire. To be truthful, guess I should say the fire was started when I dropped the torch. But that’s not what we told our parents. We collectively lied once more.

“The kids who live on the other side of the creek started the fire” is the story we told. Our parents didn’t believe the lie. The firefighters didn’t believe the lie. And the police certainly didn’t believe the lie.

Eventually, as with most lies, the truth came out and we all were punished, but some good did come out of it. That was the moment I realized I wanted to be a firefighter. As an adult, I became a firefighter and worked in that profession for 28 years. And in all that time, never once did I fight a marshmallow fire.

There was only one more lie that was told while we lived on Flamingo, and it was the worst we ever told. It was a lie to cover up something being stolen. Stealing and then lying about it, according to our Dad, was the worst thing we could do. And by “we” I really mean me. But the story of my life of crime will just have to wait until next week.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog:]