When Fabian’s father left to get a pack of cigarettes, he said he would return before sunset. He just didn’t say which one.
Fabian looked out the window for many weeks, wondering why the cigarette store was so far away. But his mother didn’t miss his father, so Fabian decided he didn’t either. At school, the other 3rd graders weren’t as generous.
Your dad is gone, they teased Fabian. Your dad bought a bus ticket to Milwaukee and he isn’t coming back.
“My dad got a call from the President,” Fabian said, looking each one of them in the eye. “He’s a secret agent. He fights the Russians.”
Your dad is bum, the other kids said. And you are a fibber.
From that day, everyone in town called him Fibian, or “Fib” for short.
It’s important to know, if you are to learn anything from this tale, that as a liar—Fib had no equal. The boy who cried wolf was, in comparison, just a josher. Politicians merely stretched the truth, and Pinocchio, well, Pinocchio was afflicted with a glandular problem.
In every other way, Fib was a delightful child. He loved his mother and did his chores quickly, with a smile on his face, though he claimed to have done chores for the entire neighborhood as well. He was gracious to his teachers, but often took credit for other students’ work and lied when asked if he had taken someone’s lunchbox.
Yes, Fib was a very good boy, but he was an even better liar.
In middle school, the guidance counselor mixed up Fib’s schedule with another boy’s. As a result, Fib was put into advanced classes instead of the remedial classes that bored him. Although math and science was a struggle, Fib talked his way into getting answers to his homework from other students and managed to sit next to the smartest kid in class during each test.
“Keep your eyes on your own paper,” warned his Algebra teacher.
“I’m just stretching,” Fib said the first time, when it was clear the only thing he was stretching was his neck and the truth.
“My eyes are on my own paper,” Fib replied the second time. “And I feel like I’m being personally attacked.” He placed a hand over his heart, affecting the patient gaze of a persecuted saint.
“I’m looking to see if anyone is missing from class,” replied Fib, the third time. “Maybe I can help tutor them after school?”
Probably the most successful class he’d accidentally ended up in was speech and debate. This did not help Fib’s penchant for aggrandizement or his talent for arguing out of both sides of his mouth, but he learned three basics truths of persuasion that he applied to his untruths for the rest of his life:
- State your claim and make your point.
- Listen to rebuttals.
- Refute and close the deal.
This three-prong attack proved useful in high school, asking his mother to borrow the car, negotiating with teachers on changing his grades, and explaining misunderstandings to the police. But where Fib really found his new skill set useful was with the ladies.
- State your claim and make your point: I would love to go to the movies with you. You are beautiful.
- Listen to rebuttals. I understand you think I say that to all the girls, and that may be true.
- Refute and close the deal. Nonetheless, we should go out as you are truly beautiful. What time should I pick you up, 7:00 or 8:00 p.m.?
Additionally, another tactic that showed Fib’s prowess was counterintuitive. He didn’t tell pretty girls they were pretty or the smart girls they were smart. He would say just the opposite. He had become so well known as a liar that when he called Janie ugly, she smiled and genuinely responded with a thank you. Likewise, when he called Susan stupid, she bragged about it to the whole school. Being a habitual liar is almost exactly like being someone who always tells the truth. People tend to trust you, even in your unfailing duplicity.
Fib was too kindhearted to tell the ugly girls they were pretty or the dumb girls they were smart, but even that ironically endeared him. Fib’s fabrications made him popular with the females, but a pariah with the fellas. They just could not understand his broad appeal.
Especially Brad Hazelton.
Brad Hazelton’s main problem with Fib was that Fib seemed to have taken a liking to his older sister, Felicity. Brad overhead Fib calling her “a wall-eyed hellbeast” with uneven eyebrows and bad breath. Of course, none of this was true. She was quite lovely, yet Brad hated Fib being anywhere near her.
Felicity was a handful herself. To understand her, you had to know that mostly what came out of her mouth was pure Grade-A sarcasm, delivered in a scathingly dry monotone that would strip the bark off a tree. Many a young man was repelled by her keen insight on their true motives, but somehow Fabian the Fibber had captured her heart.
“Fibian—that’s such an attractive name,” Felicity offered as she passed him in the hallway. “Your parents must be so proud.”
Fib, knowing of her predilection for sarcasm, responded appropriately. “Just my mother is proud of me, you bitter hag. You know full well my father was abducted by domestic terrorists when I was young. But you are so insensitive and cold, I’m sure empathy is as foreign as deodorant in your household. You may want to look into it. You smell.”
The response brought an ironic smile to both of their faces. There was a strong mutual attraction, one that could bend spoons, and Felicity and Fabian were smart enough to know it.
“I have no desire to go to the prom with you,” Fabian asked without asking.
“I have no desire to eat shit and die, either,” Felicity responded, accepting the invitation in a way only she could.
“Maybe you’ll buy me dinner at a really expensive restaurant,” Fib said.
“I hope you like Irish food,” she spat back. “Maybe we can supersize your order.”
The date for prom was arranged. Everything was working out perfectly, or so it seemed.
Fib had been warned. Several times. Brad Hazelton had assembled the O-line from the varsity football team to teach Fib a punitive lesson about messing with his sister, as he was most certainly not taking Felicity to prom. The O-line, too, had lost several girlfriends to Fib’s off-brand charm. It was time to teach Fabian the Fibber a lesson of a lifetime.
The Saturday before prom started as every Saturday had since Fib’s father had absconded. Fib rose at dawn, opened his window, and looked down the street for his dad. He had long since given up that he would see his father again, but the hopes of boys always reside deep within their souls. Disappointed to see the street empty, Fib set about to do his chores and fix breakfast for himself and his mom. He always told her he would simply pour her a bowl of cereal, but true to his lie, he would make fried eggs, sausage, hash browns, and freshly squeezed orange juice.
Fib was almost through making his morning feast when he was interrupted by a loud knock on the door. In all the years since his father had left, there had never been an early Saturday morning guest. Who could it be, he wondered. Felicity? His father, back with a pack of cigarettes? There was only one way to find out. Fib turned down the heat on the eggs, walked into the living room, and proceeded to open the front door.
The first punch to the face came before the door was fully opened.
Fib barely opened his mouth to say how much it didn’t hurt before a barrage of fists pummeled him to his knees.
“You leave Felicity alone,” Brad Hazelton spat through clenched teeth. Through rapidly swelling eyes, Fib noticed Brad’s teammates circling him. This fight was nowhere near over. He had to think quickly.
Then he remembered his training from the middle school speech and debate class. If there was ever a time he needed logic and reason, if only to support the outright lies that were about to come out of his mouth, the time was now.
- State your claim and make your point.
“Gentlemen,” Fib said, putting his hands out as if in greeting. “I am so glad to see you. I guess you are wondering why I called you here.” The other boys looked at each other, puzzled. Fib continued. “I need your help. See, I don’t like Felicity, Brad. I mean, I don’t like her at all. She just isn’t for me. In fact, I’m taking a girl from another school to prom. I have five prom dates, but I don’t think you know any of them. So tell me, how do I dump Felicity?”
2. Listen to rebuttals.
Brad was gobsmacked at Fib’s pronouncement. He had been sickened by Felicity’s preparation for the big night, her mother and her planning every last coordinating detail down to matching nail polish and earrings. He hated seeing Felicity moon over Fib, giggling with him on the phone, texting him endlessly.
Fib standing her up for her senior prom? It would have broken his sister’s heart.
“Look, you little shit,” Brad said. “You are going to pick my sister up tonight at 7:00 p.m., take her somewhere nice for dinner, and then show her the night of her life.”
3. Refute and close the deal.
“Well, Brad,” Fib massaged his jaw. “If you insist, but I don’t really have the cash on me to take your sister somewhere nice.”
Brad dug deep into his pocket, pulled out several twenty dollar bills, and threw them at Fib, who still lay sprawled out on the floor.
With the beating over and a wallet full of ill gotten cash, Fib finished breakfast and used the rest of the day to prepare for his date with Felicity.
The truth of the matter was that there was no more stunning couple at prom than Fib and Felicity, a beginning to what would be a lifelong romance.
The following Monday morning before 1st period, the principal called Fib, Brad, and the rest of the combatants into his office.
“Fabian, no one, not even you, should have to be subject to this kind of harsh treatment.” The principal pointed to the various cuts, scrapes, and bruises that covered most of Fib’s face. “Just tell me who did this to you, and they will be suspended. You may choose to press charges for assault and battery,” he added, as Brad and his thugs slumped down in their chairs.
Fib took a deep breath and responded, “It was Brad and the whole offensive line, sir. They did this to me.”
“Well, Fabian, if you don’t want to tell me the truth, then you are all excused.” And with that, Fib gave Brad and the fellas a wink, and they all headed back to class.