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FICTION on the WEB short stories by Charlie Fish

A Lie - The Ultimate Marriage
by Patrick Dent

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A lie is like a marriage, except without the divorce part. There are legal and binding laws about lying - fundamental elements of the universe. The primary rule is that, once you commit to a lie, you never diverge from the original story: no matter how barraged by contradictions, accusations, confrontations or legal threats. You and that lie are together to the end. You must remain invariant and arrogant beyond normal comprehension to pull it off. If they escalate, you must not only call their bet, you must raise the pot. This basic truth comprises the heart of lying.

Hitler, besides dabbling in politics, also authored The Big Lie theory. He claimed that the more outrageous the lie, the more likely it was to be believed. This school of thought aligns with human psychology in my experience. You must adopt this way of thinking throughout all the stages of a lie. And don't worry; it will have stages. The only question is how many.

You can't divorce a lie for trifling things such as demands for proof, document falsification, counter-sting operations or even the threat of perjury. Lies are like marriages in two ways - both are deceptively enormous responsibilities. Both are often entered into lightly. There is a single, critical difference. One has an exit door. The other does not. Remember that part.

Let me tell you how an ill-placed seedling lie grew into a Redwood even Paul Bunyan would fear. I was working a normal, middle class job, writing a book on the side. Life was great.

Then, I became a published author. Not the 'become an instant Tom Clancy millionaire' type, but the 'I have a small publisher, so I must focus my entire being on promoting my book' type.

Months passed before anyone at work noticed I wasn't doing a damn thing. When they did catch on, they moved swiftly. Time began accelerating in dog years.

My boss took me to a room where my peers and superiors waited. The HMFIC proceeded to rip me about eight new orifices in front of everyone, highlighting each of my recent shortcomings.

I had a decision to make, a simple binary choice. Take what I had coming, or not take what I had coming. Still disoriented, thinking on my feet, I went with option two. I made it up as I went along, so it's a good thing my memory is trained to slip into lie-mode in a nanosecond.

The instant I open my mouth to lie, all auxiliary functions are shut down so the brain can focus its energy on being a flawless stenographer. Luckily, I'm a man, so the only auxiliary function to disable was the sex drive. That alone freed up nearly 99% of my RAM.

I broke down and apologized for not being honest with the group. The truth was that I had been in chemotherapy for the past several months, and I went into detail describing what a friend's mother had gone through. I'm also bald - a fact I took into account with my lie-dy senses. I had a surgery coming up, and the prognosis was dim. I had been in a funk for months. Wary of paperwork, I offered to resign as soon as a replacement could be found, since I was likely to die.

OK, so that was a whopper, but I figured what Hitler lacked in military strategy, he made up for in the craft of lying. Others would probably agree with me on that one. Into the breech I went.

They immediately apologized and, out of guilt, told me not to worry about the lost time and to take off all the time I needed. No sane man would argue with this, so, as much as I wanted to, I didn't.

Two more months of book promotion passed, and I had developed the story such that the particular strain of cancer I had was a rare one that did not metastasize nearly as quickly as my own lie. The surgery removed most tumors, and radioactive pellet implants were destroying the post-surgery cancer. I was ready to return to work full time.

Perfect. Every now and then, life tosses you a bone. It tosses plenty of excrement too, so I have no remorse over enjoying the occasional bone. But this bone had a sticker price. It was like being told you'd won a new car, test driving it, and just reaching for the keys when…

"You know, I was chatting with HR the other day and they felt we should go ahead and get the proper paperwork in place for your recent disability leave."

Without the slightest flinch, I responded, "Sure! Just let me know what you need." I smiled broadly. Always bluff. Remember that too.

They needed a letter from my doctor detailing my entire treatment and current prognosis, as well as all pertinent hospitalization paperwork. I didn't jump out of my skin when they mentioned that, if they had any questions about the doctor's letter, they'd just give him a call. I knew lie-divorce was not an option. A man without options is a man without worries. He already knows what course he must take. He simply needs to work out the details.

So, I needed a letterhead with a legitimate address and phone number where my doctor could be reached. Of course, the letterhead had to look professional and the content had to be written the way a doctor would say it - confusingly.

Remember those stages I mentioned earlier? Well, here they are.

Step One: Buy time. I eagerly told the HR person I had a doctor's appointment in three weeks, and would be happy to pick up the letter then.

Step Two: Get an address. I found a medical office park, and used its address with no suite number. I test mailed to this address and it came back marked 'incomplete address, suite number missing.' Merely an oversight by the new printer who was now handling my doctor's letterheads.

Step Three: Get a phone-a-doc. I called a phone service provider I'd never used before and ordered a business line installed, with the name of the imaginary practice on caller ID and the fictional doctor's name linked to it through 411. I listened to the messages at several of my doctors' offices before composing the one my lady friend would leave on the answering machine. I even included the warning about calling 911 for medical emergencies.

Step Four: Become a genius. I studied, studied, and studied. I wrote the letter and mailed it from the mailbox at the medical office.

Step Five: Prepare continuously. It took two weeks after I sent the letter before that message light came on. It was the HR person, asking that my doctor return his call. I had met this person, and he knew my voice. I had taken several German courses, and began practicing speaking English with a German accent and sentence structure.

Step Six: Go full throttle. If you're going off a cliff, you may as well do a triple somersault. Even if there are rocks at the bottom, you'll go out with panache. I returned his call with my accent and incorrect syntax. I had dozens of cheat sheets all around me. We spoke for nearly a half hour, and not only did he believe I was the doctor; he loved the doctor.

That's it. My message is simple. Marry on a whim. It can be undone. Lie with the utmost care, as it brings with it immutable responsibility. You'd more easily bear the burden of Frodo's Ring than a lie.

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