Sometimes The Truth Will Set You Free

The practice of telling the truth was hammered into me over and again when I was growing up.

I suppose my parents and grandparents believed for me, telling the truth was a measuring stick of my maturity. A tale-of-the-tape in my prize fight with life as I careened along the journey to adulthood.

Or maybe they understood as a child, I was a crafty, manipulative little smarty pants who spent most of his days getting into trouble and trying to talk himself out of things rather than take a whipping.

Okay folks, who wouldn’t?

Problem is, back then I sucked pretty bad at talking my way out of things.

Really bad.

Although time has blurred most of the memories of those whippings, I distinctly remember the weapons of retribution my dad and his many wives used to bring me in check.

Dad’s choice was a razor strap. My guess is he believed in the most effective use of applying corporal punishment.

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Interesting thing about a razor strap making contact with a skinny kid’s butt.

That darned thing somehow managed to slap both cheeks at almost the same time.

It would whistle through the air and…

Bam!

It would make contact with my left butt cheek (my dad was right handed — you can figure out the physics later). Then that piece of leather would curl around and…

Smack!

It would sting my right cheek like a Bansi bumble bee sinking its stinger in my flesh.

For my dad’s wives, their torture device de jour was often a wooden spoon, a house shoe or practically anything they found handy and in close proximity at the time.

Living in a dysfunctional family I never had one of those Leave it to Beaver moments where gentle and kind Ward Cleaver gives his youngest son a stern talking to then lets him go.

For me — and sometimes my brother (actually never my brother) — it was all shock and awe moments with a firm resolution the beatings would continue until morale improved.

It didn’t take me long (I was crafty and manipulative — not stupid) to realize talking my way out of things wasn’t working for me.

So I tried it their way, the way they’d been preaching to me. I started telling the truth.

“Yeah, I did it. I went out with Bill and his big brother and we threw horse apples at mailboxes.”

“Yes sir, me and Jessica were making out in the choir loft over at the Baptist church.”

My dad was a pastor. A Methodist pastor.

I don’t think I sat comfortably for a week after that one.

“Yes ma’am, I called the son of the deacon’s wife a sh*t head.”

At the time it seemed telling the truth wasn’t working any better than my bald face lies.

Then one day, one of my lies worked and I escaped punishment. What I’d done was such a little thing, an insignificant situation where I took something which didn’t belong to me.

At first I was trembling with excitement. I had gotten away with it, finally.

But the following week something in my brain began to tell me how bad I was.

It was all I could think about.

Over and over, the thoughts of how bad I was for stealing kept bashing my brain. I felt so bad, so utterly horrible. I couldn’t stand to look at myself in a mirror.

I was ashamed.

I wondered how in the world I could possibly deal with how sucky I felt.

I tell you folks, this conscience thing is a malevolent contrivance of God.

So I chose the only way I could think of to get out of my dilemma. I went to my dad and told the truth.

However, I did get “dressed down” like I was a skinhead private enduring a tirade from a drill sergeant.

I walked away with both my cheeks intact, and I thought to myself how good I felt now that I’d fessed up.

A world of weight had been lifted from my shoulders and I was free. I was free at last from the horrible feelings.

The truth had actually set me free.

But….

You remember that “dressing down” dear old dad gave me?

At the end of it my father proclaimed I was going to serve penance by working at Mr. Robert’s chicken ranch for three weeks during summer break. The first week would be pro bono and I got to keep all I made.

It wasn’t until the end of week one I found out what pro bono meant.

Man I was pissed.

Let’s keep in touch: paul@pgbarnett.com

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A published author enjoying married Texas bliss. Dog person living with cats. A writer of Henry James' stories. Featured In MuckRack. Top Writer In Fiction.

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