The Fundamentals of Lying

I remember my first lie.


The Colour Table was

a rectangle squatting on four legs

in the middle of the Kindergarten room.

On Mondays, we brought things from home,

pulled them from pockets and lunch boxes,

and arranged them like offerings at a shrine

behind a construction paper sign declaring

RED!

or YELLOW!

or BLUE!

On Fridays, having demonstrated this fundamental lesson,

we took home our red barrettes

our yellow dump trucks

our blue Lego bricks.


At the end of GREEN! Week, a doll’s dress remained

the colour of spring leaves,

inchworms,

and the ramparts of Oz

Whose is this? The teacher held the tiny garment

between her fingers like a dirty thing

I already asked the morning class,

so it belongs to one of you.

The afternoon kids looked at one another

and shrugged.

I turned my head left and right,

I waited

wondered

decided

that dress would fit my Lucy doll

just perfect.


I raised my hand.


Once the teacher pressed it into my palms,

I stuffed the lie into my backpack.


Walking home, I felt eyes on me

—parents, children, pets—

I knew they knew.

Cars drove by. Passengers turned to glare at

the Five-Year Old Fibber

the Kindergarten Thief.


That evening

—after Sesame Street but before dinner—

I stole my mother’s sewing scissors,

shut my bedroom door, and

cut it into pieces, then hid

the emerald scraps in the darkest corner

of my closet.


(What I learned in Kindergarten:

While lies might be harmless,

shame will erode your soul.)