Clowning Around the Truth

Submitted into Contest #107 in response to: Write a story about a white lie which spirals out of control.... view prompt

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American Fiction

Reedsy Prompt #256

Liar, Liar

Clowning Around the Truth

It was around 11:45 when Pablo dashed out to his truck to flip a foil-wrapped burrito bottom-side-up on the dash. He wanted it to cook evenly by noon when he planned to devour it. Joe was just pulling onsite with his “Hot Grub” food truck. Pablo would order a side of Spanish rice to take home to Tweezer, an aging Australian terrier, and Joe would make at least one sale. Grabbing a chilled bottle of water from a small ice chest, Pablo shoved the truck door closed with his elbow just as the truck parked next to his fired up.

As a rule, no one left the Jobsite until quitting time. Breaks were few, often taken on the sly, though Pablo pretended not to notice. He had a good crew of landscapers who didn’t bend too many rules and brought their lunches in a box or sack if they got tired of the food truck. So, what did the new kid, Scott was his name, as Pablo recalled, think he was doing? And leaving early, no less! Pablo opened his mouth to holler, then closed it again. That was not Scott behind the wheel of the truck that had brazenly driven off the Jobsite.

Fuming, Pablo proceeded to stomp over to where he knew Miguel would be working, with or without Scott. Sure enough, unflappable Miguel was still digging in preparation for re-planting a 22-foot saguaro. Wiping a sleeve across his forehead, Miguel nodded cordially at Pablo.

A quick survey had shown no sign of the new kid. You couldn’t miss how his white company-issued ball cap clung tenaciously atop thick shocks of flaming-red-orange hair that stuck out at all angles. The kid couldn’t hide in a crowded stadium. So, where was he?

From his back pocket came the first few bars of “Big Yellow Taxi.” Pablo’s boss was calling.  By the time the call ended, the half-hour lunch break was nearly over. Pablo’s burrito was too hot to eat at first and seared the roof of his mouth. So he guzzled another bottle of water and jogged over to where Scott and Miguel would be. But again, Scott wasn’t there.

“Where is that kid?” Pablo seethed. After speaking to his boss, Pablo wanted to talk to the new kid for two reasons: Who had been speeding through town in Scott’s truck at lunch? And where was Scott every time Pablo looked for him?

Miguel shrugged. “Blue room?” he nodded to a row of Porta Johns

A commotion between pavers and landscapers erupted across the way, forcing Pablo to temporarily abandon his search for Scott. After conceding that maybe his crew could work another area while the pavers finished preparations for asphalt, Pablo’s mood brightened only slightly at the sight of Scott’s flamboyantly colored hair bobbing alongside Miguel, who kept his blue-black locks cut short and slicked back. Both men paid close attention as a saguaro was being carefully lowered into the ground.

“Hey, Scott!” Pablo had to yell to be heard over the hydraulic motor.

Scott’s head snapped around and fixed a wide-eyed stare at Pablo, who tried not to gape. The kid’s eyes were not just blue; they were astonishingly blue and set in a face as white as a ghost. Add to that the shocking hair color, and the kid was a walking circus advertisement. Kinda spooky if you asked Pablo. He cleared his throat and looked off in the distance.

“Listen,” Pablo said, “It’s against company rules to let anyone drive the company truck. So, who’d you lend your truck to at lunch?”

“No one.” Scott’s gaze did not waver.

“Look, I saw your truck leave – “

“Hey, Scott? Come give me a hand with these straps!” Miguel called.

It really was a two-person job. When Scott shrugged and hurried away, Pablo let him go. But this wasn’t over. No way. The kid had lied to him. He could put up with occasional screw-ups, but he wasn’t going to put up with a liar. What a shame the guy was a week away from ninety days when all the benefits would begin; health, dental, 401K…

The issue still bothered him as he drove home. More so when he realized he’d forgotten to get Spanish rice for Tweezer. Joe was probably disappointed too. At the sight of Pablo’s truck pulling into the yard, Tweezer raced back and forth across the back of the sofa in front of the living room window. As was customary, Pablo honked once as he killed the engine. And predictably, Tweezer jumped straight up, barked once, and fell off the sofa. Pablo chuckled. Sometimes the mini-mutt was the light of his life.

Stepping into the kitchen, he paused as Tweezer dashed out the door. The dog would be back as soon as he’d taken care of business, probably before Pablo set his ice chest on the counter. Then, his pint-sized roommate would demand dinner. Oh yeah, that. He was rummaging in the cupboard when he heard Tweezer come back in.

“Shut the door, would ya?” Pablo said over his shoulder. Standing near his bowl, Tweezer barked a sharp refusal. Fine. Pablo nudged the door closed with his boot on his way to the electric can opener, which stood beside the aging coffee machine he’d obviously forgotten to turn off that morning.

“You like peas, don’t you?” he took the show of teeth as a yes. Pablo hoped the dog didn’t mind carrots, too, because they were also in the can he planned to heat up and pour over dry dog food. “Dinner for Champions, right?” Leaving Tweezer to his feast, Pablo emptied his ice chest, disposed of his lunch wrapper and napkin, and grabbed a beer from the fridge. He turned to find the dog looking at him expectantly.

“What? You’re already finished?” Then, peering into the dog’s bowl, he realized the little guy did not like carrots after all because every last one had been carefully plucked from the mix to form a half-circle outside the dish. “Good job, Tweezer,” Pablo said wryly.

His wife, Rosita, had named the dog before she ever decided to bring it home from the pound. Her sudden reluctance to get a dog after planning to for more than a year was puzzling. Pablo had no idea his wife was keeping a secret, one that nearly destroyed him when several months later, she died. He knew his heart would forever beg the question: Why didn’t you just tell me?

Sometime between the late show and ant races, Pablo and Tweezer fell asleep on the sofa. Somehow, even in sleep, vivid colors of red and cobalt blue splashed across snow-white dreamscapes. Pablo was glad it was Saturday as he padded to bed fifteen minutes before his phone rang.

The caller ID read “Redondo” Cecil Redondo ran the paving crew at the site of a new office complex where Pablo’s landscape crew was also working. Snatching his phone off the nightstand, he planned to give Cecil a piece of his mind about interrupting his weekend sleep-in routine. But the call had ended before Pablo even answered.

Lightning lit up his bedroom. A moment later, thunder woke up Tweezer, who wasn’t any happier than Pablo about being awakened so early. The dog sunk deeper into Rosita’s pillow and was instantly asleep again. Pablo intended to do the same. It sounded like they were in store for a gully-washer out there, but Pablo wasn’t worried. It wouldn’t affect what his crew had finished the day before. He was drifting back to sleep before his eyes flew open as a thought occurred to him. The rain wouldn’t bother his job, but it would totally wreck all the prep work Cecil’s crew had completed ahead of asphalt being delivered first thing Monday! That had to be the reason Cecil tried to call. But what did he think Pablo could do?

Sounding much like Tweezer when thunder woke him, Pablo growled as he swung his legs off the side of the bed. Might as well fix a cup of coffee, he thought, as he swiped his phone for Cecil’s number and headed for the kitchen.

“Dude!” Cecil must have had the phone hanging off his ear, “Sorry if I woke you up. It’s all good now. Thanks for sending your guy; his idea worked out perfect!”

Pablo shook his head in disbelief. “What? What guy? What idea?”

Cecil’s phone was crackling as the storm raged in the background. But his excitement was unmistakable. “The guy parece un payaso,” Cecil said above a whisper, “He diverted the rainwater away from our subgrade,” the call went dead.

Pablo stared at his stunned reflection in the kitchen window. The guy looks like a clown, Cecil had said. It could only be Scott. The liar. What the heck was Scott doing at the Jobsite on a Saturday?

It didn’t take long to put on yesterday’s clothes. His keys were still in his pocket. He was just about to slip out the kitchen door when he heard Tweezer’s nails on the tile. Pablo bent to pick up the dog. “Hey, little buddy. It’s crunchies for you this morning” he rubbed Tweezer above the eyes before setting him down on the floor. When Tweezer flicked a pointed ear and covered both eyes with his paws, Pablo was assaulted by guilt. With a sigh, he picked up the terrier and said, “You win. Let’s go.”

Tweezer was licking the last of a sausage and egg muffin off his face when Pablo pulled onto the Jobsite. Although the storm had definitely drenched the entire site, thanks to Scott’s idea, all the water from the roof drains had been funneled through hoses into a nearby wash.

The subgrade was wet but still intact. Cecil was ecstatic and pumped Pablo’s hand in gratitude. “Thanks again,” he said, “Your guy had a great idea. He said his name is Scott.”

“Yeah,” Pablo pursed his lips. “Where is he now?”

“He just left,” Cecil looked around the Jobsite, “There he goes,” he pointed at a truck going through the open gate. “Oh wait,” Cecil said, “That’s not him.”

Pablo nodded, “Uh-huh. But that’s his truck.”

Climbing behind the wheel of his own truck, Pablo instructed Tweezer to hold on tight. They were going on a chase.

Pablo had to step on it to catch up. But he only wanted to get close enough to see who was driving. The truck seemed to be heading east across town. Pablo knew Scott lived on the west side. Was this proof that the driver was not Scott? Frustrated, Pablo tried to pull alongside the other truck, but the driver sped away. When the other truck ran a late yellow and Pablo caught a red light, he slammed his fist on the steering wheel. Tweezer barked as if in empathy.

Pablo was sure he’d lost the chase when he saw the truck idling in a long left-turn lane. He pulled in several cars back and looked at where the turn would take him. The hospital? By the time Pablo made the turn into the hospital parking lot, Scott – or whoever it was – could’ve been anywhere. He wasn’t giving up that easy. He’d drive around all day if he had to.

When he spotted the truck ten minutes later, he stopped so short Tweezer nearly slipped off his seat. Pablo parked as close as he could, in plain view, and prepared to wait as long as it took for the driver to return. He admired the meticulous landscaping, flowers, and grass. Several inviting shade trees completed the scene. Tweezer developed a need to inspect the lawn more closely and gave his customary double-bark signal.

On the way back from a quick jaunt with Tweezer, Pablo decided to peek inside the other truck as he passed by. He gaped at what he saw on the passenger seat. Had it been midnight, the bright red-orange wig would probably have glowed in the dark. This was just too weird.

When a car pulled out across the way, Pablo quickly backed into the vacated parking space, where he had an even better view. Scott – or whoever it was – would likely see him too. Pablo sure hoped so. He wanted to gauge the guy’s reaction.

When at last, the guy emerged nearly an hour later, they were both surprised. Pablo knew it was Scott by the chalk-white complexion; dark glasses concealed his eyes. He hadn’t expected him to be bald, though he probably should have.

At the sight of Pablo, abject shock momentarily rooted Scott to the blacktop. Then, after a quick glance into the cab of his truck, his shoulders slumped.

“Looking for this?” Pablo called, waving Scott’s wig.

Scott whipped off his sunglasses and the company-issued cap and slowly walked to Pablo’s truck. His cobalt eyes were burning holes in Pablo’s soul. Tweezer whimpered softly.

“Aw, kid. Why didn’t you just tell me?” Pablo hated how his voice caught

diedre Knight

canyonwhispers@gmail.com

August 20, 2021 16:23

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