Liar, Liar was a short story I wrote in ninth grade; I think it was an assignment, to tell a story through the eyes of a child. I think it went with To Kill a Mockingbird. The next year, I cleaned up and submitted it to Scholastic. Well, it didn’t get very far, but for some reason, I like this story… perhaps for its innocence.
I was in kindergarten when I learned about liars. It all started with a girl named Josaleigh Tirrun. She thought she was great, and she made it quite clear that we were to treat her as if she was. She considered herself the most perfect human being to ever set foot into Miss Ezler’s class, and we all thought that to be true. Josaleigh had beautiful wavy dark hair and big turquoise eyes. Everyone wanted to be her friend, and they would do almost anything to gain her attention. One day, without warning, she picked me. Me, Sarah Smith, the most ordinary girl in the world, with drab brown hair and no real color for my eyes, sort of a repulsive mix of every eye color in the rainbow. One day she decided I was worth talking to, and let me play with her and her popular friends on the four square block at recess.
This wasn’t just any four square block on any ordinary blacktop. No, this particular four square block was set off from the rest of the playground by invisible signs warning all potential trespassers to stay out of Josaleigh’s kingdom. This was holy ground.
That day, during story time, we were all sitting patiently on our carpet squares, listening to a story about a rainbow fish that gave away all of his beautiful scales, when Josaleigh poked a sharp pencil into my back.
“Hey, do you want to play four square with us today at recess?” Josaleigh whispered as I turned around.
I could have screamed with joy at the very prospect of stepping onto holy ground, as a part of Josaleigh’s sacred Posse. I could have jumped up and down on my green carpet square and danced around the toy-strewn room. I could have said no. I could have acted like I was too cool to play four square with the likes of her. I should have ignored her.
“Sure!” I whispered loudly. I had gotten a ticket to heaven, to play a children’s game on the streets of gold.
A long, long time later, after which seemed like years and years, so long I could feel myself growing older, the rainbow fish had finally found happiness, and it was time for recess. I rushed over to my little cubby, grabbed my new blue and white windbreaker and calmly, quietly, and in a very cool and mature manner, I flew over to the door and pushed and shoved my way to the front of the line. Slowly we crept down the long corridor after Miss Ezler, who didn’t even feel the need to walk at the normal pace. Finally, we reached the white metal gates of heaven.
It was time to play four square.
Josaleigh picked up the red recess ball and took square four, the serving square. In my mind, it was the throne of the kindergarten queen. She instructed Katie to take square three, Jessie to square two, and Lizzy square one.
For a few moments I wondered if I was invisible. “Don’t I get to play?” I asked in pure shock.
Josaleigh and the rest of the Posse laughed. “No, silly. You have to wait on the outside until someone misses the ball and has to go out.”
I felt very silly indeed.
“Wait,” Lizzy interrupted, and my heart almost stopped. “Wasn’t the agreement that you couldn’t be part of our club if your name doesn’t sound like ‘eee’ at the end?”
I almost started to cry as Josaleigh stopped dribbling that bouncy red recess ball up and down. “True,” she said thoughtfully. The queen had spoken, so I started to walk dejectedly away. “Sari!!” she called, “Sari, come back and play with us.”
I didn’t realize that she was talking to plain, homely, ordinary, mediocre, unnoticed old me, Sarah Smith. I had gotten a few feet away when I realized that I was “Sari”.
I smiled, walked back, and stood at the edge of the game. Lizzy hit the ball too far, and Jessie couldn’t hit it back in time. I stepped into the first square as Lizzy moved up.
For the rest of the week, I refused to be called Sarah. Sarah was too ordinary for a queen’s best friend. I had moved up to square three every day this week, so on the popularity scene in the kindergarten world, I was second best. I refused to beat Josaleigh, though, because she was the queen. Who had ever heard of beating a queen? Square three was good enough for me; I was Sari, conqueror of heaven.
Until the day Josaleigh hit that red rubber recess ball too hard.
It had been an ordinary day. I had once again worked my way to square three, and was getting extremely close to beating Josaleigh. I slapped the ball across the white line into her square, and she slammed it into Katie’s square.
The ball sailed over Katie’s head and straight into Fred the nerd’s face. It broke his brand new glasses.
When Miss Seiver, the recess teacher, came to see what had happened, Fred had started to cry. “What happened?” she asked us sternly.
“Sari hit the ball way too hard,” said Josaleigh. “and it hit Fred in the face and it broke his glasses. She did it on purpose.”
I stared at Josaleigh in shock. We had all just seen her hit the ball, so why would she say that I hit it?
“No I didn’t,” I protested. “Jessie, who hit that ball?”
“You,” she answered, avoiding my eyes.
This could not possibly be happening. “Lizzy, who hit the ball?”
“Katie,” I asked desperately, “did I hit that ball?!” Miss Seiver’s cold eyes were boring into the middle of my back. I couldn’t understand how she could believe Josaleigh.
“You did! We all saw you.”
It was settled. I was accused of something called “aggressive social behavior”, which I think meant “being bad on the playground.” I had to sit in the principal’s office for the rest of recess.
I was back to plain old Sarah.
I did a little bit of thinking while I was in there. She lied to get me in trouble, and she didn’t get in trouble, so maybe if I lied about someone else to get into trouble, they would take my blame. It was an interesting concept, and I was eager to test it out.
I did the next day during story time. This time, the rainbow fish was coming to the rescue. I didn’t hear a bit of the story, because I was making the ultimate plan.
I threw an eraser piece at Jimmy.
Miss Ezler looked up. “Jimmy, what happened?”
“Someone threw something at me!”
I raised my hand. “Melissa did it! I saw her!”
I forgot that Melissa was the prim, faultless girl sitting in front of Jimmy. “Sarah,” Miss Ezler said, exasperated, “did you throw something at Jimmy?”
“No!” I stuttered. “I meant, it was George! I knew it was one of the two, but I couldn’t really tell because–”
“Sarah,” she interrupted gently, “George is out with the chicken pox. Please stay in for half of recess today for lying to me.”
That was the way it was going to be. Everyone clamored for first in line, carrying footballs and jump ropes, and Josaleigh was carrying the cursed recess ball. Miss Ezler gave me a piece of paper with the words “Lying is bad” supposedly written across the top. I was still learning to read, and I wasn’t in a good mood, so I didn’t bother sounding out the words to see if I was correct. I figured she was, because what kind of teacher would lie about something that said “lying is bad”?
I had to copy it over three times. I stared numbly at the page and gripped my pencil harder. L-Y-I-N-G. I glanced up at the clock, and I saw that five minutes of recess had already passed. I-S B-A-D. I looked back up at the clock. At this rate, recess was going to be over before I was done! I concentrated hard and started again…
Fifteen minutes later, I finally headed out to recess All I wanted to do was simply sit, watch some boys throw a football, and rest my sore and aching hand.
Josaleigh walked up. “Do you still want to play four square with us?”
“Yeah, sure,” I replied quietly, and I headed over to the holy corner.
But suddenly, I didn’t see it as holy ground, with streets of gold or pearly gates. It was simply a section of the playground. Josaleigh was not a queen who got the privilege of always being the winner of our four-square games; she was a normal person who did bad things like lying. After all those times of writing “lying is bad”, I knew quite well that lying was indeed bad. The Posse and its special corner of the playground were not perfect, and I didn’t need to purposely miss the ball to keep Queen Josaleigh in the best position.
That day, the Sarah in me finally made it to square number four.