YOU BETTER WATCH OUT
by Randy Ford
With such an imagination there was no way I could’ve kept out of trouble, and trouble followed me wherever I went. It all started, you see, when my imagination and I ended up in the classroom of Mrs. Jones, my first grade teacher. Now she was an angry person, who got angry over nothing. Could turn a molehill…or was it an anthill…into a mountain. And I exasperated her more than anyone, and she punished me for the least little thing. She was mean, I thought. Her hands shook…shook almost every time she warned me “you better watch out.”
In this partial refrain you’ll recognize a tune. I sang it over and over again and couldn’t get it out of my brain. Crowded out other things until there was nothing left.
Trouble equaled misery for both of us. Mrs. Jones’ long arms and big hands were like the legs and the talons of a hawk! She often seized me, shook me, or spanked me before I could get out the door… run the halls…even breathe. I couldn’t sit still or shut up. Once I moved, that was it.
She had met her match, and she knew it. She was considered a good teacher, but when it came to me…oh, brother!
As a rule, Mrs. Jones saw through my lies. I only burned her once. After that incident she questioned everything I said, but I think she wanted to believe me. I think it annoyed her that she couldn’t.
I didn’t mean to upset her so much. I know she worried about it. I didn’t think telling little lies hurt. When I got older, I tried to convince myself that stretching the truth wasn’t the same as lying, but I don’t think I convinced myself nor anyone else. And Mrs. Jones, bless her heart, once she got over her anger, couldn’t help but smile…smiled each time that she thought about the whopper I told about owning a Santa Claus suit. That was only one of many stories I told to get attention.
My mother, if I’d told her about my part in the Christmas program, would’ve gladly made me a Santa Claus suit. Wasn’t it odd that my teacher didn’t contact her? And I had the main part in the Christmas extravaganza, so it was as much Mrs. Jones’ fault as mine. Why the entire show revolved around me and my late entrance. So picture me in a-matter-of-fact way taking center stage in my street clothes and wagging my finger to “You Better Watch Out.” The extraordinary thing was that even without a Santa Claus suit I won a tremendous ovation. And by the end everyone there was on their feet except Mrs. Jones, who sat there in a chair with her face in her hands.
I’m not particularly proud of my behavior, but I must say I didn’t feel embarrassed. Actually I think I profited from it. In fact, I know I did.
Years later, when my lying became more sophisticated and carefully planned, I was never intentionally hurtful and never cared whether I got caught or not. I was so cavalier about it that sometimes I bragged about it. And poor Elaine, my bride, found herself in the middle of it.
Then as success came my way, I gave more and more time to my business. I rarely came home, and when I was home I was absent. Then, pretty soon, I wouldn’t call the welcome I got a welcome. Pretty cheerless. So why did I come home?
For the longest time, Elaine’s and my relationship appeared intact. I could’ve maintained the charade because I know how to play the game. I’m an expert at it. I know how to embellish almost any situation. Embellishing the truth, in my mind, isn’t lying. Then I’d get caught and have to make something up, so I easily maintained the charade by embellishing some more. I embellished the most elaborate stories. But to call it lying? Poor Elaine. Eventually, she grew tired of it, and I admit now that it was wrong. End of story. End of marriage.
Considering how often people do it, and in the overall scheme of things, what’s so terrible about a little lie? White lies? Something as trivial as why I didn’t come home for dinner? Lies woven into a web of deception: weeds that I never pulled. .
Bigger lies were unfortunately forthcoming. As for the process, well…the truth hurts, as the truth prevails, and sometimes, even today, that little voice inside my head screams! Thank God it was a childless union.
Here I could make a list. She could too. What happened in regards to who told the truth? Now and then regret would creep in and would get my attention. What happened between Elaine and me didn’t need to happen.
The Truth-slayer arrived and slipped in so quietly that I hardly noticed her. For business reasons I embraced her. She became my whore. I thrived on hoopla. Hyper became my modus operandi. (Modus vivendi, shit, I don’t know.) With the help of hype and hoopla, I became a legend, and, led by Truth-slayer, I made a killing. With Truth-slayer’s help, on billboards, stretching from coast to coast, we sold crap. Just as my old man told me, “If dressed in your street clothes you can get all those people to believe you’re Santa Claus, you can sell anything.” What it did for me was purge the word “can’t.” Hello, Miss Fraudulent! A big o’ welcome to Tricky Dick! Hi crap!
We! We exploded onto the American scene. But as I reached for the drug Euphoria, which all along I kept on my nightstand, my bubble burst…burst and another chapter of my life began to unravel. Then I heard her, with her harshness, my first-grade teacher, my nemesis, crooning, “You better watch out and better not shout!” I mean to tell you, it got to me. So I gave up selling crap. .
By then I needed my face slapped. You better watch out, she told I had better. It was then that I remembered my childhood when I told friends I owned the real Lassie…the collie on television, the star of the show and my hero, the dog that ended each episode by rescuing someone. (I wish I owned the dog now. Or the cat that died ten times.) But there has to be an appreciation for an imagination as vivid as mine, for instance an appreciation for all those pie-in-the-sky dreams I had, have; and continue to have. My flight of fancy often took me places that I otherwise wouldn’t have gone. But could it all be traced back to the first grade, and was Mrs. Jones’ admonition on the mark? So, you better watch out too.
I married again last spring, which brought me unexpected happiness, and the lying, I think, has stopped.