Thomas Elson’s stories have been published in numerous venues, including Ellipsis, Better Than Starbucks, The Cabinet of Heed, Flash Frontier, Short Édition, Journal of Expressive Writing, Dead Mule School, The Selkie, The New Ulster, The Lampeter, and Adelaide. He divides his time between Northern California and Western Kansas.
When you looked me in the eye, and, without blinking, told me it was over, I, as a friend, stopped being concerned. Even though, as a man, I worried about finagling the whole thing all these years.
But, as a priest, I am alert to lies. A major part of my job description is devoted to discerning the permutations of embellishments, minimizations, fabrications, diversions, truth stretching, and truth shrinking. Not only inside the confessional, but also from the book I preach from each Sunday:
The woman gave me the fruit.
The serpent deceived me.
Where is Abel your brother? I do not know.
Why did you laugh? Sarah denied it, saying, I did not laugh. And He said, No, but you did laugh.
His brothers took Joseph’s tunic, slaughtered a male goat, dipped it in blood; brought the tunic to their father, and said, We found this; please examine it to see if it is your son’s.
Delilah said to Samson, Behold, you have deceived me and told me lies.
The king of Egypt told the midwives, When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth, if the baby is a boy, kill him. If it is a girl, let her live. The midwives, however, did not do what the king ordered. They let the boys live. The king summoned the midwives, Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live? The midwives answered him, Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before we arrive.
Before the cock crows twice, ye shall deny me thrice. And Peter said, Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you.
That evening Peter denied with an oath: I do not know the man.
I know what make us human, what distinguishes us: Our singular ability to lie. To just make it up and to hell with the consequences. To not bear false witness is to not be human. To love your neighbor as yourself, you must love the liars, otherwise you’ll have no one to love.
I have struggled with lies my entire life – especially late in the evening– when I say goodnight to your wife.
Bear it alone. Bear up. Bear your grief. Bear your pain. Bear your fruit. Bear a child. Bear the cost. Bear a grudge. Bear your soul. Bear your weight. Bear arms. Bear witness. Bear in mind. Bear any burden. Bear any cost. Bear any scrutiny. Bear right. Bear left. Bear with me. Bear my grief. Bear my pain. Bear my weight. Bear my fruit. Bear my child. Bear my cost. Bear my burden. Bear my grief. Bear down. Bear it alone.