I learned to lie when I was five-years-old. It was all circumstance. I’m not the person who designed a fire alarm in a clear plastic cover that so elegantly displayed the switch and had “LIFT HERE” written in large lovely letters (I had just learned to read). It wasn’t my fault; how was I supposed to know that pulling the cover would trigger an alarm? I wouldn’t have even been in the department store if my parents hadn’t taken us to a see disaster-horror flick.

Why anyone would take a five-year-old to see a disaster-horror film, Freud only knows, but there I was sitting in my booster paralyzed as I watched the world get torn apart by tornadoes and tsunamis. Until that moment, my biggest fear had been a weekly appointment with the TV. Wherein the Red Ranger would have to fight some ne’er-do-well.

Fortunately, my younger sister broke down part way through the movie and my mother pulled her out of the theatre — I tagged along. We had a good hour before the movie finished and we’d have to go back to the theater to pick up  the rest of my family, so we went to the department store across the street.

My mother left me all alone because my younger sister had to use the bathroom. That, that is when I saw it, the beautiful red box hanging on the wall. I sauntered across the arcadian lobby until I was directly underneath the fire alarm. It was glorious. Those ruby letters called out to me. Before I knew it, I was on the tips of my toes and, my tiny fingers had found themselves wrapped neatly around the cover of the fire alarm ready to pluck. My callow mind could not comprehend the chaos I was about to release.

High pitched screeching cut into the silence. A rift in tranquility appeared, and out poured pandemonium. Hope was nowhere to be found. I took a step back and covered my ears. I could barely hear the voice in my head repeatedly saying “Darn!” (I didn’t know how to curse until I was in middle school). From the sound of that racket, I knew I was definitely going to get in trouble. The eyes of passing patrons began to zero in on me. There was no denying my guilt. Unless, it wasn’t my fault. Unless, somehow, I was a victim.

In mere seconds my five-year old brain came up with the foolproof plan: I had tripped, and accidentally knocked off the cover. My five-year old brain realized that I had very little evidence supporting this testimony, and if there were any chance of anyone believing my lie, I was going to have to forge it. The fingernails on my right hand dug deep across the skin of my left hand. Now I had irrefutable proof that the cover had scraped me as I fell, and popped open

An older woman in a red vest came over to investigate. She interrogated me, but  I stuck to my story. As far as I knew she bought it. My mother and sister came out a second later, and they asked me what happened, so I told them I tripped and accidentally knocked open the cover to the fire alarm. I don’t remember if I got away with it, but I must have because we all went for ice cream after the movie finished (it was like I was being rewarded for lying).

My kids are going to raise every circle of hell, because I did. It’s a curse I’ll have to live with but, to be honest, I’ll probably egg them on a little. I didn’t take half the risks I could have gotten away with when I was younger. I’m still young and stupid, but that’s an excuse that will only last me another five years or so. As I get older and older, my plans for great escapes have to become more and more convoluted until they’re impossible. I want my kids to make plans for great mistakes, and come out with a few good stories to tell.

brandon portrait
Provided by Ginger Johnson The Mainstream
It’s hard to fight the temptation to pull the fire alarm, but student Brandon Taylor manages.