Jimmy Quinn sits on the back porch looking past the cornfields, painted gold by the hot sun, past the blacktop highway absent of cars on this Sunday before school starts back up, past the river he knows is on the other side of the road, separated by a hundred yards of thorny thistle and broke down cedar. Past it all and into nothing. He had walked across the field, over the road and down the prickly hill more times than he could count, carrying a fishing pole in one hand and a cooler in the other. Shifting his dark green eyes, he stares at the tea glass sitting on the porch rail. The ice has melted. Glistening beads of sweat roll down the glass, altering the appearance of the red letters—Las Vegas—prompting them to dance a slow roll. The sweet tea ain’t know damn good now, he knows that. Just as sure as he knows she is lying.
They had warned him from the start. She is a liar. A pathological liar. Who is “they”? Everyone who knew her. How had he not seen it? Hell, he didn’t know what a pathological lair was, how could he have known she was one? Maybe it was because he saw her through a different lens than the others, a lens blurred by too much testosterone. She was a beauty. Jimmy had seen beautiful girls before, he had even dated a few. She wasn’t the most beautiful one, but there was something about her that pulled him like the moon pulling the sea. The way she wore her red hair tied up, like it didn’t matter and didn’t take effort to do. The way she looked over the top of her glasses when she was thinking about something, her sharp chin pointing down at her long neck. Maybe it was the way she walked, like she knew where she was going even when she didn’t. Maybe it was the small mole just below her left eye, making you look there instead of into her eyes. Or maybe it was her laugh. Could be, he thought, it was all those things blurring my vision. She hid behind that blur so well, telling lie after lie after lie.
Was she lying about how she felt about me? Who said it first? Those three little words, I love you.
But she never said that, Jimmy Quinn.
Love you. Love you was all. Always leaving out the I. That was just the way she said it, it doesn’t mean she was lying.
Or does it?
She is lying now. He knows that. He saw her there, across the street, walking away with a guilty person walk, looking over her shoulder without slowing her forward pace. But she told the detective she hadn’t been there in over a month. She had lied to him, proffering that sexy little lip pout Jimmy has seen before. The cop was an old fart with acne scars older than her, probably never had a girl like her flirt with him before.
Why was she there, Jimmy Quinn?
“I didn’t ask her,” his voice alone under the baking sun. The tea is tempting, even in its diminished condition, but it is too hot to move. His throat is dry, almost hurting.
Just get the goddamned tea, or you can ignore it like you ignored all her lies.
“I didn’t ignore them,” his voice is scratchy like an old 78 vinyl tripping under a diamond tip. Leaning forward, his fingers touch the glass, knocking it off the rail. The hard ground slurps the coveted tea with staggering proficiency.
A flock of blackbirds, napping in the shade of cornstalks, take flight as if his swearing was meant for them. Jeb, his thirteen-year-old Boston Terrier with bad hips, doesn’t even lift his sleeping head.
You didn’t ask her why she was there because you knew that would beg another question. And another lie.
I should clean up the broken glass before someone cuts their foot on it, he thinks.
Was she with him? Oh, by the way, don’t worry about the glass, there is no one coming. Certainly not the liar. You are here by yourself. Just like before Jimmy Quinn.
She wasn’t with him. She wouldn’t do that to me.
Love you…come to think of it, you should clean up the mess. The police might be visiting you. No need for anything that could be misconstrued as anger.
Where’s your wallet? Go get a fresh tea and check for your wallet.
Pulling up the tail of his shirt, he wipes the sweat from his brow. She knew the dead guy from work. Sometimes she would see him at the gym, but no, she didn’t even know his name. But why was she leaving his building. It was the middle of the day; she should have been at work. That would be easy enough to verify. Ask Carol. But if you ask Carol, she will tell her you were asking questions. And then what? Another argument about trust?
She can only leave you once. Now about the wallet, or should I call it evidence?
“She didn’t leave me,” he whispers to the heat.
Where is she then? Not with him. He’s dead. Stiff as a board. Belly up. Smelling funky!
He walks into the house; the cool air feels good on his wet skin. He makes a fresh glass of tea, extra ice. He grabs the broom and dustpan from next to the washing machine and tucks it under his arm. Returning to the porch, he glances at the small table next to the front door where he always puts his keys, his sunglasses, and his wallet. The wallet is not there.
Outside, the orange sun is low in the west sky. The air is still hot, but hope awaits on the horizon. A warm breeze awakens the metal tube windchimes hanging from the pin oak. Descending the steps, he looks down on the broken glass. No evidence of the spilt tea remains. The ground is hard and dry.
How many lies did she tell you that day? Think back, what was the first thing she told you that morning after stepping out of the shower, her body still wet and smelling of lilacs, a towel concealing her dark red hair. She didn’t even say good morning. What was it she told you?
“She wouldn’t be home for dinner, had a late meeting with the new advertising firm.”
Lie número uno.
And then I called her to see if she wanted to meet me for lunch. Too busy, she said.
That’s how I saw her leaving his building. I was at the bistro across the street, sitting at one of the sidewalk tables. It's her favorite place to meet for lunch, something about the ambiance, nothing about the food. I had just placed my order when I saw her hurrying down the street. I started to call her name, but didn’t—
Because you didn’t want to know why she was there. What she was running from. Because—
No, that’s not why
You didn’t want to hear another lie!
Okay! Okay! I can’t keep doing this. It is all one big lie. From end to end. There is no Jimmy Quinn. No back porch or cornfields, or roads or rivers. There is no iced tea or broken glass, missing wallet or mysterious girl with her hair tied up and alabaster skin that makes your heartbeat faster. There is no phantom voice with a smart-ass attitude revealed in italicized words. Not hot sun or resting crows. There is no crime or cops or bistro. No missing wallet. No Jeb the dog.
It is all lies.
Now you may think I a pathological liar. But I would differ with you, friend. The truth is, I am simply a storyteller.