Someone Wrote “Gullible” on the Ceiling

When I was in Kindergarten, more than two decades ago, a kid on the bus told me he had a direct line to the power rangers, and that he would call them and they would show up outside my house the next afternoon.

I’ll be damned if I didn’t sit on the curb for frickin’ hours waiting for the racistly-cast fivesome to show up and, I dunno, say hi or something.

This is an extremely vivid memory of mine, and I think it’s because all the times that people have tricked me have been formative events in my life.

For instance, when I was a kid, I didn’t get sarcasm. I did, however, trust adults. So, when I was bugging my dad who was rebuilding his 1985 Jeep CJ-7 when I was in the first grade, another formative event happened.

I’d like to first point out that I think that I was genuinely interested in what was happening with the Jeep. Before tearing it down, I have memories of looking through the hole in the floor of the Jeep at the passing weeds underneath. It was a hell of a time.

I later realized that the hole was probably there for surreptitiously discarding trash and/or cigarettes. I never quite got a straight answer on that.

Long story of a short story shortened, I really like Jeeps. You’ll see a model Jeep in my Twitter header in fact, though it’s the newer Wrangler model that I don’t like as much but anyway I’m getting way far away from the point. I like old-school Jeeps and get excited when someone tells me they have a Jeep only to be disappointed when I find out that they meant they have a Grand Cherokee.

OKAY FINE I’LL GET BACK TO THE POINT.

Where was I? I was a kid, I didn’t get sarcasm, and I trusted adults. When I’d been curious about the Jeep reconstruction, my step-mom told me I should go grab the alphabet book from my room and write down each letter of the alphabet ten times or so.

That’s fine. I realize now she was trying to get me to go away, and I was smart enough to realize it then, too. But back then I knew better than to question adults. They’re bigger than me, know better than me, and can spank me.

So as an obedient soldier, she told me to jump and I asked “How high?” Or, more to the point, I specified, “You want me to write out the word on each page?”

My step-mom was being sarcastic when she told me that, yes, I should write out each word ten times. I didn’t know that at the time, and “sarcastic” wasn’t part of my vocabulary yet. All I remember is that I went back to my room holding back angry tears.

Another quick explanation. This specific book was filled with marine creatures, with one creature for each letter of the alphabet. I know what you might be thinking: “What about X?” I can tell you that one. It was Xiphosura, the scientific category name for horseshoe crabs. I remember this because, again, this was a formative event.

I wrote each of those words out the requisite number of times. I was at least past Xiphosura when my step-mom came in to correct her mistake. But at that point, the damage had been done. I knew what Xiphosura meant.

I think this event might have also triggered my fascination with words. Having to write twenty-six mostly foreign words that many times at such a young age will instill in you a close eye for spelling. Maybe that was in me all along, but I still hold this theory in a bittersweet “it sucked but it is what it is” kind of fashion.

After that event, three things happened: I learned to question everything and how to lie, for starters. I also learned how to stay out of the way because that’s how you avoid having to do busy work. They say “look busy, the boss is coming” but really it should be “the boss is coming, look invisible.”

Learning to question everything was easy. I didn’t understand what sarcasm was at the time and had to give my brain time to develop that. But in the meantime, I was able to shut up and process what was being said to me.

The lying was different. I learned how to tell lies that weren’t really lies. It’s all in the details you leave in and those you leave out. As long as the words themselves make up a true statement, it’s not a lie. It’s surprising I didn’t become a lawyer.

There was also an incident where my mother’s best friend spanked me because she thought I was lying about poking holes in the wall of her son’s room. Those holes had already been there, and I was just moving the pegs around. They were those little plastic things that hold birthday cake candles, and I was operating them like a switchboard while we played—probably—Power Rangers.

I had been told that if you tell the truth, you won’t get in trouble. But that, in itself, was a lie, and one I won’t ever tell my own kids. I mean, I’ll rephrase it into “I’ll be less pissed off if you admit what you did than if you say you didn’t do it and I find out on my own that you did.”

This above scenario totally shattered my view of the world as a ten-year-old kid. If you lie, you get in trouble, but if you tell the truth and someone doesn’t believe you or they don’t like your version of the truth, you get in trouble? Then what the hell matters?

Keep in mind that I’m the kid who pretended to believe in the Tooth Fairy just to get money. I woke up for school one morning and my tooth was still under my pillow instead of money. I walked out into the dining area where my dad was having a coffee and held up the baggie saying, “You forgot to give me money for losing my tooth.”

He said, “Whoops. Well, I guess you know now.”

And in the end, I think that was the most important event of all. That aloofness in forgetting to adhere to a childish superstition. Seeing through my own eyes that adults mess up, too. In the end, it’s not a big deal if the Tooth Fairy doesn’t exist, or Santa, or even God for that matter.

In the end, truth wins.

This was kind of a personal post, I know. A tale of childhood that I just wanted to get out there and try to make sense of. Consider it my Christmas Story and even imagine Ralphie if you like; I didn’t look much different from him as a kid aside from the glasses. Even after writing it out, I’m not sure what the point ultimately is of this. Don’t be sarcastic to kids? Lying will get you out of trouble when the truth will get you into trouble despite adults telling you that honesty is the best policy? I’ll lie down on the chaise while you give me your own interpretation of these events in the comments.

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