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...And nothing but.

Collared with remembrances of part triflings with the truth, the accused feels his shirt collar suddenly tightening and heads for Wal-Mart to buy a larger size.

"Why don't you enter the liar's contest this year?" my dear wife said to me, having just finished proofreading my latest brilliant literary effort. "I believe it's held somewhere in Wisconsin."

"Whatever for?" I asked, batting my big brown innocent eyes. "I may occasionally take a few liberties with the truth, but I'm certainly not what you could call an out-and-out liar."

"No? How about your aunt who contracted tuberculosis from licking Christmas seals? Or that other aunt - Prunella, wasn't it? - walking home from Wednesday night prayer meeting who was run down by a rusty police car and died of lockjaw? All true, I suppose."

"You've heard of hearsay? That's what I heard say."

"And I suppose it was hearsay that one of your nephews drowned in a watermelon-eating contest?"

"Correct."

"How about the uncle during the Great Depression who had to take a job sitting behind the front window of an Italian restaurant eating spaghetti and meatballs from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. - with an hour off for lunch?"

"I think you made that up."

"I can look it up, if I have to. As for your grandfather breaking his leg falling over the pattern in your living room carpet..."

"The next time I buy shirts, remind me to get a larger collar."

"Then there was that trash about everyone at our wedding throwing rice except for my mother, who threw a tomato. Practically ruined your brand new sweatshirt."

"Okay, so she missed. But it was close."

"And your dog that treed a moose."

"I didn't say he treed a moose. I said he barked as if he'd treed a moose. You can look that up, too."

"How about the stuff of your digging a trench to drain the basement into the pond and, instead, you drained the pond into the basement."

"I never did get credit for at least trying."

"You know what I think? I think you've got a hole in your ozone layer. Your parents giving you a pet lamb that was allergic to wool - of all things!"

"Itchabod, I called him. Never could catch the little feller."

"I suppose that included in your hearsays is that crud about your cousin."

"What crud about what cousin?"

"The crud about the cousin twice removed - removed once to Leavenworth, the second time to Sing Sing. The one released from Sing Sing a few days before Christmas who stopped off in New York City to pick up a few gifts for the folks back home. The one who fractured three vertebrae and ruptured his spleen falling down a flight of hotel stairs with an armload of Gideon Bibles."

"Oh, that cousin."

"And how about that cousin's twin brother?"

"I didn't know he had a brother."

"Probably didn't. But that couldn't stop you from shooting off your big fat typewriter about what a hog-wild deer hunter he was. How he finally bought a house on 40 acres in northern Michigan - where deer played on his lawn through the summer, ate up his garden, and rubbed against the posts on his front porch until the posts finally fell.

"Come opening day of the hunting season, as you likely heard say, he strolled out after breakfast to bag the biggest buck, only to find nothing but fence-to-fence deer hunters. Not a deer in sight."

"I vaguely recall hearing that."

"And do you recall that after not sighting a deer the entire two weeks, on the evening before the deadline, he went into town, bought a set of deer antlers and a deer call, and stopped at a neighbor's to borrow a moth motel that at one time had served as a raccoon coat?"

"That's possible."

"But here the crud thickens.

"According to your vague recollection, early the final morning found him back on his favorite runway, where he strapped the antlers to his head, ran the barrel of his rifle down a sleeve of the raccoon coat, squatted down beside a stump, and then began blowing on the deer call.

"At the funeral, perhaps you'll recall, you first met your Aunt Flossie, who was sitting in a wheelchair, her hair a frizzled white from having inadvertently turned on her electric blanket while eating water-melon in bed. Or so you were told, I suppose."

"I must have been told that, of course. I certainly wouldn't have made it up."

"Can you say that about the pumpkins you were raising on a milk diet, and the vines went across the fence and milked your neighbor's cows dry? Or the glass eye you found in the tapioca?"

"I'm always the one who gets the pit in the cherry pie and the pebble in the baked beans. You know that."

"And the hole in the ozone layer. Getting your head caught between the boards while nailing up the board fence! Really! And knocking your seatmate across the airplane aisle while trying to open your packet of peanuts! And your nearsighted golfing partner who came into the club dance wearing a divot in place of his toupee. I just don't know."

"It was getting dark and he had swung so hard heading into the final hole that his rug had come off. I believe I cleared that up satisfactorily."

"You didn't even try to clear up that stuff about your door-to-door selling. How the woman ran out to hold her charging wolfhound and her little kid bit you in the leg."

"I carried the scar for years."

"You've also carried all that nonsense about what your Aunt Flossie expounded on while you were waiting for the serviceman to come and change the flat tire on the hearse."

"On the contrary, I don't remember that at all."

"According to her, according to you, your Uncle Quonse was the only one in your entire lineage to experience even a trace of good luck.

"His full name, you may vaguely bring to mind, was Quonset, after the Quonset hut, the long, low building erected as temporary shelter during World War II. Uncle Quonse's head had the same long, low shape. As you supposedly were told, two weeks before he was born, his mother had run into a mailbox. Prenatal influence, someone else had pointed out."

"I don't remember exactly who that was. . . . Are you sure you didn't shrink this shirt the last time you laundered it?"

"It hasn't been laundered. That's the shirt you got on sale as a Slight Irregular. All I did was cut off the third sleeve.

"As for the rest of your hoopla about Uncle Quonse: Unable to scratch out a living on his acreage of rocks and clay, he had taken a job as punch press operator at the South Fisher Body Plant in nearby Flint. Three days is all it took for him to routinely trip the press before removing his finger, and the press had accommodatingly removed it for him. A second surprise came in the form of an insurance check for the handsome sum of $500. He had immediately quit and gone back to farming. Do these exact words stir your memory buds?"

"This shirt collar is killing me."

"Droning right along, when Uncle Quonse saw how well that insurance thing worked out, he immediately took out a policy sponsored by The Flint Daily Journal. For 25 [cents] a week, it covered all accidents on the farm. Again I quote, |The very day that policy went into effect, darned if Uncle Quonse didn't back over his wife with the manure spreader.'"

"I'm sure I would never put anything like that in print."

"You can't deny saying that even his luck ran out eventually. You claim Uncle Quonse got religion, as you used to say in Michigan, and he was drowned in the Flint River while being baptized."

"It's possible."

"You're out of your gourd."

"How about if the preacher said he couldn't be baptized with his hat on? And Uncle Quonse telling him he wasn't going to take it off? And the preacher saying yes, he was? And Uncle Quonse replying, |Not in that cold water'? And the preacher saying he'd see about that? And in the struggle, Uncle Quonse stepping out too far and the current taking him?"

"And are you still of the opinion that the baptism was a success, because the preacher managed to save Uncle Quonse's hat?"

"I'll give it more thought on my way to Wal-Mart. I've got to get some 16 1/2-inch collars. I can hardly breathe in this thing."
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Title Annotation:short story
Author:Stoddard, Maynard Good
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:May 1, 1994
Words:1445
Previous Article:Happy birthday, Norman.
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