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The Truth About Carson

March 31, 2009

By Denise Jaden

Carson once complained that there were not enough liars in the world. It was after his dad told him he had been the reason for their divorce. After his Aunt Jenny, near the bottom of her fifth vodka tonic, threw out a vivid tale of her and Uncle Harry’s latest fantasy sex moment. After Rachel had suggested a change of deodorant when Carson had come in for the Big Clutch on his last date.

Too much honesty.

It was only natural that Carson gravitated toward Dax, the only other kid in his high school who didn’t want to hear the truth. Or tell it.

Carson approached Dax for the first time in the school hallway one afternoon “Hey, did you get your essay done?”

“Sure.” Dax clucked his tongue, then glanced toward their English classroom.

Carson flipped through his own notebook and stared down to the half-sentence he’d stopped at, hoping it might have magically materialized into a completed assignment.

Dax grabbed Carson’s notebook and started walking the other direction. “Let’s ditch,” he said. He reached in his pocket, pulled out a few pieces of notepaper, and passed one back to Carson.

Carson barely had time to unfold it before they reached the school office. He followed Dax’s lead, handing his note to the secretary. They didn’t wait for a response, spun, and ambled out the front doors.

“Wow, I’m impressed,” Carson said when they reached the far side of the parking lot. “How do you get away with it? That didn’t look anything like my mom’s signature.”

“Once she reads the excuse, it won’t matter.”

Carson scratched his hands against his jeans nervously. “Uh-oh. What’d you put?”

Dax swung around a tree, just off school grounds. “That our immediate presence was required with the Cloning Researchers of America.” He cackled. “You know, that way there’ll be a replacement for us next time we wanna ditch.”

Carson tried to nudge him toward the bank of trees to their left where they’d be out of sight. “My parents are gonna be pissed, man. I won’t be leaving the house for a decade.”

Dax looked up at the sky like he was considering this. “Your parents are split, right?”

Carson nodded.

“You got it easy. Just play ‘em off each other when you need to. Tell your mom you’re at your old man’s place, or vice versa…piece of cake.”

Dax was a wealth of information.

*

“What’s going on, Carson?” his mom yelled when she saw Dax laid out on her couch later that afternoon, the coffee table cluttered with cookies. “I told you, a small snack after school. For you, not the rest of the neighborhood!”

Carson caught Dax’s eye and motioned toward the door. Dax took his time sitting up and adjusting his hair and clothes while Carson’s mom continued to yell.

“… and your principal called today. He said you weren’t in school all afternoon. Where the hell were you, Carson?”

“I was there, I swear.” Carson wrapped a sweaty palm around the doorknob and pulled it open, willing Dax to hurry up. “Mr. Silverman doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

Dax snickered when he waltzed through the door. “See ya,” he called, throwing up a casual backhand wave to Carson’s mom.

Carson took one glance at his mom’s angry face and raced after his friend.

“And just WHERE do you think you’re going, young man?” His mom’s voice almost made him stop in his tracks, but he used all of his willpower to keep his feet moving forward.

“I told Dad I’d be over in half an hour. He’s, uh, expecting me.” Carson skirted around the corner and down the alley after Dax.

The walked silently for two blocks.

“What about a two bedroom apartment,” Dax said finally, looking toward the run-down places on the East Side of town.

“Really?” Carson asked. “You mean for you and me?”

“Yeah. We can both get jobs. We’ll make plenty enough to afford it if we split the expenses.”

“I’m in. I seriously can’t take anymore of her bitching.”

Dax clapped him on the back of the shoulder and grinned. “Soon you won’t have to.”

*

Ribby’s Donuts took them both on, baking donuts through the graveyard shift. Carson snuck out of the house night after night, ready to spring all of his surprises on his parents at once—after he got the apartment. Dax altered their birth certificates, aging them both to eighteen, and they secured a two-bedroom place for the first of the next month. Carson fell asleep through most of his classes, but he came up with better and better excuses when his teachers tapped him on the shoulder to wake him.

“Sorry, Mr. Anderson. My aunt… she… she didn’t make it.”

“Oh my. I’m sorry to hear that.” He furrowed his brow. Drummed his fingers on his overhanging belly. “I’ll have to give your parents a call to offer my—”

“No! I mean, it’s nice of you, but my mom’s pretty broken up about it. She doesn’t want to talk to anybody.”

Mr. Anderson gave Carson a sideways glance, then headed back to his desk.

The lies got easier and easier.

*

Dax hadn’t been showing up for school but at least he came to work, even if he was a little late sometimes. Carson usually hung around the front counter talking to the hot cashier, Tamara, while he waited for him.

“I bet you’re never late for things,” Tamara said, as she stacked coffee cups behind the counter.

“How would you know that?” Carson snapped his eyes away, trying to act more cool than he felt.

“I just know things,” she replied.

“You know things about me, or like about the whole world?”

She slid a stack of spoons into the cutlery tray in front of Carson. “Most of what I know comes from the library. Last year I learned about cars…how to do my own oil change, brakes, that sort of thing.”

Carson raised an eyebrow. “Wow, you must hang out there a lot.”

“Just Monday afternoons before work.” She met his eyes. “But with my knowledge of you, it was just a hunch.” She winked. “So where’s your buddy?”

“Um. He had to help his dad pour some concrete. You know, their driveway.”

“Oh.” She nodded.

Just then, Dax bustled through the door, looked Tamara up and down as he regularly did, and gave Carson a whack on the shoulder. “Sorry I’m late, bud. My car broke down.”

Even though Dax didn’t own a vehicle, Carson didn’t bring it up and just followed him into the kitchen.

“So we’re set up to move in Thursday, right?” Dax dropped his double-size backpack on the floor, looking like he already had all of his possessions with him.

“You bet. Hey, thanks for showing up late. Gave me a chance to get to know Tamara. But next time we gotta get our stories straight. I told her you were pouring concrete with your dad.”

Dax’s head jerked toward Carson, a strange look on his face, morphing into a tense smile. “Yup, you’re right. I was.” He turned and scooped a ball of dough onto the counter, but Carson sensed a knee-jerk reaction to the word “dad.” “So what’d you and the chick talk about?” Dax shook his head. “Nah, never mind. I don’t want to hear it.”

He kept one eye on Carson, which made Carson want to tell it.

“She’s pretty hot for starters. Hangs out at the library on Mondays, so smart too. I’m thinking about showing up there sometime, you know, study the book of Tamara.” Carson laughed at his own joke, but Dax was in full baking mode, barely listening.

“Hmph. She’s toyin’ with ya, buddy.”

Was she? Dax knew more about these things than Carson did.

*

The first of the month, Carson stood among his small array of belongings in his new nine-by-seven bedroom. His mom hadn’t let him take anything other than his clothes, and even then, only because they wouldn’t fit her. She was pissed about the apartment, but he knew she’d be even more pissed once she knew about his plan to drop out of school.

Carson trekked to the other bedroom. “Got the four twenty-five, Dax?”

“What do you mean?” Dax lay on the floor, a single blanket lay in the place of a nonexistent bed. He adjusted the tuning on his mini-stereo.

“The rent, man. It’s rent day.”

“We pay at the end of the first month though, right, pal?”

Carson stared at him. Not only did he not like the sound of the word ‘pal’ when Dax used it on him, but Carson had already footed the security deposit. He cleared his throat. “Nooooooo, it’s due today.”

“We get paid Tuesday, right? I’ll get it to you Tuesday.”

Carson balled his fists, but against his better judgment, backed out of the room.

Tuesday came and went, as did the next one. Carson reminded his roomie daily that Dax would cough up the next two rent payments all on his own.

*

One Monday, near the end of the month, Carson arrived at Ribby’s early, at eight o’clock, figuring he’d allow a little extra time for conversing with Tamara before work. Their talks had become regular and had touched on parents (hers were as bad as Carson’s), dreams (Carson the photographer, Tamara the ever-changing career artist), and pets (her best buddy black lab, Klutz).

But Sherry, the not-so-hot counter girl, stood poised in her place. Just as Carson was about to ask after Tamara, she walked through the front door…with Dax directly behind her.

“Hey,” Carson said to both of them, but left his eyes on her.

“Funniest thing,” Dax said. “I was at the library, and who should I run into?” He laughed a big laugh and put a loose arm around Tamara. She averted her eyes and stared out the large picture window.

Carson mentally kicked himself for telling Dax about the library.

“Better get to work,” Carson said through gritted teeth. At least Dax was early. At least they’d get the bake done and be home in bed by four a.m. If Dax didn’t cut out early again, that was.

“See ya, Tammy,” Dax said, and followed Carson to the kitchen.

The next night, Carson marched into Ribby’s at his usual eleven o’clock. “Dax here?” he asked Tamara on his way to the back.

She shook her head.

He tried to read her expression. Was she disappointed?

“Hey, uh, Carson?”

He turned back to her.

“Did I do something?” She wiped the counter, not meeting his eyes. “I mean, I thought we were having fun talking.”

“I…you didn’t do anything. I thought you were with Dax now and maybe…”

She started to laugh.

“What?”

“Do you really think he’s my type?”

“I don’t know. Dax dates women all the time.” Or at least he talked about dating them. Carson had yet to see him actually with anyone other than Tamara. “I guess I thought—”

“Well, I’m not women, I’m me. And for the record, I hate the name Tammy.”

They stared at each other. Just then, Mr. Ribby walked through the door. Dax followed, carrying an enormous bag of takeout containers—the Styrofoam kind that take up the whole storage room but weigh a feather.

“Glad I could help, Mr. Ribby.” Dax dropped them in the middle of the floor and stuck out his scrawny chest.

Mr. Ribby rolled his eyes, heading for the cash register to count up the day’s earnings. Carson and Dax made a quick exit to start baking.

Tamara worked late that night, but just before she was off, Carson took a break.

Dax trailed behind him to the front counter. “Hey, pal, I’m gonna jet out for a few minutes. I’ve got to renew my license.”

Carson shook his head. “Right, because we have a 24-hour DMV now, don’t we?”

Dax looked blankly at Carson without a response. He obviously thought Carson would be the last person to challenge him on a lie.

But Carson glanced at Tamara, and really did want some time alone with her. “Fine. See ya,” he said, waving Dax off like a mosquito.

Once the front door fell shut behind him, Tamara turned to Carson.

“He won’t be back tonight, will he?”

She was there most nights when Dax showed up late for work, but usually long gone before he gave himself early dismissal rights. Carson would bring it up with Dax after he’d paid his two months of rent.

“Sure.” Carson stared at the door where Dax had disappeared. “Yeah he will.”

“Why do you let him do that? And you live with him too. That must be a nightmare.”

“We get along okay, I guess…As long as he pays the rent,” he added, under his breath.

“He won’t,” Tamara blurted.

“Huh?”

“I know things, remember?”

“So do you know what I should do about it then?”

Her smile warmed him. “Stop covering for the guy. Start telling the truth. Stop pretending he’s getting his driver’s license renewed at midnight.”

Carson chuckled. “The truth has never worked out too well for me.” He went on to tell her about Aunt Jenny and Uncle Harry with the leopard-print scarves and dominatrix whip. Tamara responded with her own tale of the sex talk she’d gotten from her mother—complete with personal masturbation details.

“I think the key is picking your honest moments,” she said.

“Picking your moments?”

“Sure. Start giving people some honesty. But complete honesty only to people you can trust. You don’t have to tell them about your last bout of hemorrhoids. You know?”

Carson laughed.

After Tamara left, Carson sat down to jot a note to Mr. Ribby. When he finished, he picked up the phone and dialed Dax’s cell phone. Carson had called the cell phone many times when Dax had promised to be back to bake and not shown up. Dax never answered.

At the sound of the beep, Carson said, “Hey, Dax, it’s me. I finished half the bake…my half. I’ve left the rest for you, along with a note for Mr. Ribby explaining why I’ve been working alone. If you get down here soon, I’m sure you’ll have time to get the bake done AND find the location of the note before Mr. Ribby gets here to make the morning cinnamon buns.

“Oh, and by the way, if the rent isn’t paid first thing in the morning, I’m moving out.” The complete truth was that Carson had pretty much decided to move out regardless. “Have a good night. I’m gonna go get some sleep.”

He hung up the phone and immediately picked it up again. His mom answered on the third ring, tired, but happy to hear from him.

“Yeah, Mom, I’m sorry. I screwed up. I want to get back in school and get my life on track again.”

“Well, I think the first step is for you to move back home, Carson.”

“Okay. And I can pay rent now too.”

She made a harrumph sound to that. “I want you to concentrate on school. But maybe this has been a good lesson. I just hope you know the value of a dollar now.”

A dollar. Four hundred, twenty-five of them. Yup.

Carson smiled and hung up, then slid the note for Mr. Ribby under the twenty-pound bag of flour. He was done with lies. With covering. With half-truths. Well, except for Tamara. Too much information could be a little like sharing your latest hemorrhoid story. He might wait until next month to tell her that he just might be in love with her.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 1, 2009 9:04 AM

    Loved the start. I’ll be back to read more.

  2. April 2, 2009 10:31 PM

    Good story with well developed characters. Even though she isn’t meant to be one of the main characters, I especially enjoyed Tamara… she’s one smart gal.

  3. April 7, 2009 11:27 AM

    I enjoyed it, Denise! 😀

  4. Fred permalink
    April 10, 2009 1:03 PM

    Cool story Denise. Take care.

    Fred

  5. April 13, 2009 6:33 PM

    Thanks everybody! I’m glad you liked it!

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