Lies are Like Goldfish

I was walking around the lake today when a high-school girl yelled out the name of her algebra teacher.

I'm an unemployed line worker who flunked out of tenth grade, I never even got past geometry, but I stopped in the middle of the path and looked up the hill at the four teenagers huddled around the aluminum table in one of those pic-nic pavilions. She waggled a white plastic package at me.

“We’re eating Goldfish. Do you want some?”

That was a lie. They were really eating those generic chocolate cookies with a cream center, the kind I'm allergic to. They were students from a school I didn't even attend, and it's been nearly three years since I've gone by the name she shouted, so I just stared at them for several seconds trying to get the gears to mesh in my brain.

I imagined them watching me--I was trudging along, kicking at the pine cones, and the guy with the Led Zepplin concert t-shirt (that he bought on clearance from Old Navy) said, "hey, that looks like Miss Cables." Then the girl, who resembled the sister I pretended to have when I was sixteen, looked at me looking at the ground and mumbling toward the dirt, and she said, "that <i>is</i> Miss Cables."

It's an honest mistake. They were thrown off because I was wearing a hoodie and torn jeans instead of a white blouse and black skirt. They were thrown off because I was someplace other than the campus (because, you know, teachers never leave the school). They didn’t care that I was talking to myself. No one who talks to herself is crazy or schizophrenic anymore. Not since cell phones with wireless headsets were invented.

I don't own a cellphone. The government uses them to track you. I suggest you put yours in the microwave for sixty seconds, then drop it in a trash bin at the mall.

So the guy with the denim jacket (he told his friends it used to belong to Richie Sambora, but it was really his dead uncle's) said, "it's not Miss Cables." And the girl who pretended she had a tattoo hidden on her ankle said, “Well, if it's not her, who is it, smart ass?”  Finally, the girl who reminded me of my make-believe sister shouted to me.

I bet her friends gave her hell for that.

"What the hell are you thinking?”

“I've got a lit cigarette, and you're inviting the teacher over to eat Goldfish with us?”

“She could turn us in, you idiot."

Teenagers can be so short-sighted. Miss Cables would have relished a cigarette. She quit smoking a year earlier, but her boyfriend dumped her Friday night, and she'd steal an apple from a snake if he told her it was made of nicotine. 

I know the cigarette companies are part of one big cartel, pumping us full of chemicals that make us want to buy plush toys, so I didn't give them a conspiratorial grin and tell them it was our little secret.

But I'm not rude, so I decided to give this other woman's students three sentences worth of polite: Are they enjoying the beautiful afternoon? Good to see them outside instead of in front of a computer. Stay out of trouble.

They laughed a little too loud.

I got back to my walk.

Of course, this story is fiction.

There is no lake.

The End

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