How to Lie to Your Parents by Anna Kemper
First, sit on the floor playing with those jumbo foam puzzle pieces. Build a castle; use the ones with the numbers to make indoor hopscotch. But don’t put the numbers in order. They’re just for show. Your brother yells at you to share so you chuck the crumpled green square—the one that’s missing a few teeth—at him. “Ow!” he’ll scream and slump over, clutching his eye. Construct a foam fort around him to muffle the sound of his cries.
Finish the fort and act natural. Laugh so loud that maybe your mom will mistake the wailing for brother-and-sisterly bliss. You cringe as you hear footsteps on the stairs, distant shuffling in the kitchen. You wonder if she has a shoe in her hand. Or an egg. She walks in the living room empty handed. “What did you do to him?” she’ll say. Say you built Johnny a house to play in. Say he’s crying tears of joy.
She isn’t fooled. March to your room before she has the chance to grab your ear and lead you there.
Sit on your bed and sulk for a moment. Take in the sound of your brother’s sobs. Think about what you’ve done. Study your Winnie the Pooh comforter and wonder why it isn’t comforting you now. Wait a few more moments and then take out your harmonica; it’s in the dusty, red box in the bottom drawer of your dresser. Your grandma would have wanted you to play it. Play something sad. Play the blues. Play something so blue you make your mom cry and your brother cry harder. Clearly, you’ve missed your calling. Feelings pour out in tunes you’ve never heard before. You forget you’re in timeout, and your mom forgets, too. She’s lost on the bayou.
Your dad gets home and doesn’t shut the door behind him. In a glazed-eye trance he drops his briefcase and goes looking for a straw hat, hips swinging with the rhythm. He doesn’t know why you are playing the harmonica, or why you were sent to your
room, or why you poked John in the eye with a foam puzzle piece. He just sits outside your door in overalls, singing made-up words to made-up melodies through the straw in his teeth.