Hey! Remember a few weeks ago when I hadn’t written a story the week before and so I wrote two stories in one week? Yes? Well, then, welcome back to familiar territory. I plan to write one story tonight (right now, in fact) and another by, ohhhh, let’s say sometime Thursday. Hopefully Wednesday night, but there’s nothing like a comfort buffer to take the pressure off. And by “take the pressure off,” I mean “give me more time to feel comfortable procrastinating and probably leave it to the last minute.” That’s right, we’re all about honesty and transparency here at the club. Which just happens to be what tonight’s story is about (I’ve just decided). Transparency, that is. It’s not about honesty. Nope, tonight’s story is about a big, fat liar.
THE STORY OF THOMAS THE BIG, FAT LIAR
Once upon a time, there was a man named Thomas. His parents had raised him to be a good, honest sort of man, trustworthy and morally upright. He donated to charities and helped his friends move couches and stuff and was just generally pleasant to be around. People would see Thomas walking down the street and say, “oh, look. There’s Thomas. What a swell guy.” And it was true. Thomas was a swell guy.
One night, as Thomas was driving home from work (where everybody loved him and he always did a good job, staying late when necessary but never long enough to make his family feel neglected), it began to rain.
“Fudge-sicles,” Thomas said, switching on the windshield wipers, “I hope this doesn’t impair my driving or anyone else’s.” The rain continued to intensify as Thomas turned onto the treacherous mountain road that just happened to lie between his work and his home. “Golly, it’s really coming down,” he said as he maneuvered around a sharp, blind turn in the road. Fortunately, there were no cars coming the other direction and driving at unsafe speeds. “Whew, what a relief,” said Thomas, “I’m glad no one’s out driving at unsafe speeds. My genuine caring for people would make me very emotional if that were the case, and I might start driving irrationally.”
Well, he didn’t start driving irrationally, you might be interested to know. But no one would know how well he was, in fact, driving, because at that very moment a giraffe that had escaped from the zoo over in the big city stepped right onto the roadway in front of Thomas’s car.
Art by Eric Jansen
“Yipes!” he cried, swerving to avoid the giraffe. His car flew off the road, sailing almost silently through the rain until it found solid ground partway down the mountainside. Striking the slippery rocks with bone-rattling force, the car bounced and turned, throwing up swirling cascades of mud as it traveled, end over end, to the bottom of the mountain, which just happened to be in another town where nobody knew poor Thomas.
A woman named Mildred Corningware saw the car land and called 911. An ambulance was dispatched and Thomas was rushed to the hospital. Unfortunately nobody noticed his wallet lying next to the wreckage where it had oh-so-inconveniently flown from his pocket upon final impact. Thomas was in a strange hospital in a strange town with no identification!
He awoke four days later, immobile in a hospital bed with all sorts of tubes and monitors attached to him. A nurse was, of course, right there and happened to be checking his IV when he awoke. She saw his eyes open and immediately rushed from the room yelling, “doctor! Doctor!” Not like she could have spoken to him herself and reassured him everything would be okay or anything. Nope, she bailed, primarily because movies and television have taught me that that’s realistic for a registered nurse to do in that situation.
So, in comes the doctor and immediately asks Thomas if he knows where he is. Thomas shook his head. “You’re in a hospital,” the doctor calmly informed him.
“Oh,” said Thomas, “well, gee, thanks, Sherlock. I kind of figured that one. I thought you might mean something less general like what hospital or what town or why I’m here. That’s the stuff I don’t remember, you total dooftopode.”
The doctor turned to the nurse, who had re-entered the room with him and was looking uncomfortable and friendly all at once. “Wow,” he said, “this guy’s a real jerk.” The doctor then explained to Thomas that he had been in a car accident and brought to the hospital four days earlier on the night of the rainstorm and inexplicable giraffe escape.
“Giraffe?” said Thomas. “That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard.”
“Not as dumb as an octopus with a pet wallaby,” said the doctor.
“What are you talking about?” Thomas asked. “Now you’re just being ridiculous. Why don’t you just tell me what you’re doing to help me?”
“What, don’t you see all these tubes and monitors?” the doctor said, clearly offended. “We’re doing all sorts of medical stuff to you, man! Now, let’s get down to basics. You had no I.D. when you came in. Can you tell me your name?”
Now, the truth was that Thomas did not, in fact, remember his name. He didn’t remember anything about his personal life at all. But did he tell the doctor that and start down the rocky road to discovery, finding new truths about himself and his life along the rough, but wholly inspirational and satisfying, way? Nope. He lied his ass off.
“Yep,” he said. “My name is Bill Jenkins and I have a very successful legal practice two towns over to the east. You may be a doctor, chum, but I see more money in a month than you see all year. ‘Pure Profit’ Jenkins, that’s what they call me. And my wife is hotter than yours, too.”
“You don’t even know what my wife looks like,” said the doctor.
“Doesn’t matter,” Thomas replied. “That’s how hot mine is. Suck on that, Poindexter.”
The nurse ran from the room crying as the doctor stood up and shook his head. “I’ve had amnesia patients before,” he observed, “and they always reverted to their purest, most moral state upon waking. But you…”
“Save your speeches and go get me a pack of cigarettes,” said Thomas, who had never smoked before in his life. “And tell that nurse to get back in here. She can check my vital signs anytime, if you know what I mean.” The doctor shook his head again and left Thomas’s room, stopping only to admonish the nurse to stay out of there at all costs.
Thomas was there in the hospital making everyone miserable for over a week before his wife, Tess-Tess, found him. She had been calling everywhere asking if anyone had seen Thomas, even asking for John Does. Since Thomas had given a false name, he was almost impossible to find. Ironically, it was his claim of having a legal practice two towns over that led his wife to him. She was going to hire a private investigator when one of her friends, Billie Jean, suggested she should seek legal counsel first. “I heard the greatest lawyer in the whole state is in the hospital over in Marzipan-town,” Billie Jean had told her. “Watch out, though. I hear he’s real mean.”
So, Tess-Tess drove over to the Marzipan-town Hospital for the Hurt and Stuff, and asked for the mean lawyer. They knew just who she was talking about and ushered her straight up to the room. When she arrived, the doctor and nurse were both there looking at Thomas’s chart because there would be way less dramatic tension if they weren’t.
“Thomas!” Tess-Tess cried upon entering the room.
“I’m afraid you’re mistaken,” the doctor said, furrowing his eyebrows. “This is Bill Jenkins, the wealthiest, meanest lawyer in the whole state.”
“I’m afraid you’re mistaken,” Tess-Tess said. “This is my husband, Thomas O’Toole, swellest guy in town.”
The doctor looked from Tess-Tess to Thomas and back again. Thomas just sat slack-jawed on the bed, staring at Tess-Tess. Finally, the doctor said, “but he told us his name was Bill Jenkins.”
“Well,” said Tess-Tess, “that was just a big, fat lie.”
“I’ve never seen this woman before in my life,” Thomas said finally.
“That, too, is a big, fat lie,” replied Tess-Tess.
“Nuh-uh,” said Thomas.
“Yeah-huh,” said Tess-Tess.
There was silence in the room for a protracted moment. Finally, Thomas said, “well, this is embarrassing.”
The doctor looked Tess-Tess up and down and said, “you’re not hotter than my wife, either.”
“What?” she asked.
“Nothing,” he said, and quickly left the room. The nurse remained behind, however, staring at the uncomfortable couple. Finally, she spoke.
“Despite my earlier popular fiction-inspired behavior, registered nurses are actually quite capable,” she said. “We work to promote health, prevent disease, and help patients cope with illness. We’re generally friendly and not prone to panicking or relying on doctors to make us look good or perform elementary tasks like asking questions or reading a chart. Also, contrary to what you obviously think, we don’t enjoy being hit on by our patients a dozen times a day. And, just for the record, you’re not supposed to smoke in a hospital and it’s against the law to give legal advice if you’re not really a lawyer.”
With that, she turned and left. Tess-Tess turned and looked at Thomas with wide, hurt eyes. “You did all that?” she asked.
“Um… No,” Thomas said, lying transparently.
With a heavy heart, Tess-Tess checked Thomas out of the hospital and took him home. She tried to rehabilitate him, but something had changed irrevocably after that fateful accident and the ensuing coma. And so, when people saw Thomas walking down the street, they no longer said, “oh, look. There’s Thomas. What a swell guy.”
They said, “oh, look. There’s Bill Jenkins.”
See you soon,