Lie Like a Dogby Richard Diedrichs
Lie Like a Dog
Sandy and his brother went over their plan as they lay in the dark, eight feet apart, in twin beds.
“You lift the screen and I’ll throw it against the house,” Sandy whispered.
“I want to throw it,” Chris whined.
“Shusha. Keep your voice down. You throw the next one. It’s my balloon.”
“Okay,” Chris said and kicked off his covers.
“Wait. I’ll go fill it.” Sandy walked to the door, pinching and pulling the top of the balloon until it squealed.
“Shusha,” Chris called.
Sandy stuck his head into the hall. He saw nothing but shadow fifteen feet down to the door at the end. From the other side of the door, he heard muffled voices from the television in the living room. He felt sure his father was asleep in his recliner. He could not be sure about his mother. She could be anywhere, in the kitchen, in the den, in her bedroom. She roamed the house like a panther, and pounced when Sandy least expected.
Sandy hurried on tiptoe into the bathroom and locked the door. He flushed the toilet and wrapped the balloon’s mouth around the faucet’s chrome mouth in the sink. He filled the balloon with cold water, and tied the end, like his father had taught him. He pulled the end over his index finger, under and through, to make a knot. It was harder to do wet. He got it after three tries.
When he finished, Sandy looked at himself in the mirror. Although he had been in bed for only a few minutes, his blonde hair stood up in all directions, looking as if a rabbit had scurried through it. His pupils covered almost all of his blue eyes. He bared his crooked front teeth in a snarl. He looked like a spooked rabbit. He switched off the light.
With the wet balloon pressed against his skin, inside his pajama shirt, Sandy stuck his head back out the door. He heard the same sounds from the front room. He hurried back through the shadowy hall, expecting his mother to jump out and scare him. He lunged into his bedroom and pulled the door closed. He kept the light off.
“Okay. The screen,” he ordered Chris.
Chris jumped on Sandy’s bed, under the window. He raised the shade and released the screen from the bottom. Sandy squeezed by him, and lifted his head and shoulders out the window. He held the window sill with one hand and the slick, bulging balloon with the other. He looked at the Randolphs’ house next door, about twenty feet away. There were a couple feet of stucco wall between their back door and kitchen window. The porch light was out, but the kitchen was lit. Sandy turned his head to each side. To his right, his backyard lay quiet in the dark. To his left, an eight-foot cinderblock wall divided the back and front yards. Sandy could just see the street. Nothing moved along Shadycove Drive, although he thought he heard voices somewhere beyond the wall.
Sandy raised the balloon as high as he could, his body pointing headfirst out of the window, like a bowsprit on a boat. He aimed with his eye at the Randolphs’ wall. With his elbow locked in an “L,” he brought his arm forward and launched the balloon. Wobbly, lopsided, and slippery, the bulbous missile sailed on a low arc, hooking right. Sandy grabbed each side of the window frame to steady himself. He heard glass smashing.
“Geez!” Chris said behind him and ducked down.
Sandy saw the shattered kitchen window to the right of the porch. Shards of glass hung in the frame. Sandy struggled to pull himself back into the room. He knew somebody would be out to see what happened. A force ran through his body and he felt light and quick. He drew his head and shoulders inside and stood on the pillow at the head of his bed. He reached for the cord on the window shade. He pulled it down quickly, and it slipped and snapped out of his wet hand. The shade flew to the top of the window sash with a bang.
He reached for it again, as the Randolphs’ back porch light flicked on. Ann Randolph appeared in the doorway, her dark hair spread over the shoulders of her white robe. She looked across at Sandy standing in the window in his pajamas. She put her hand above her eyes to block the glare, and squinted. Sandy dropped to his knees on his bed. He couldn’t disappear. She had seen him. He put his head back out the window.
“What happened?” he said, in a hoarse whisper, loud enough for her to hear.
“What’s going on?” Ann asked, watching Sandy.
“Some kids, I think,” Sandy said. “I heard voices. They must have run.”
Ann blinked her eyes and waited.
“I think it was Jackie Armstrong,” Sandy offered, rather than suffer the silence. He didn’t know why he said it, besides the fact that he hated Jackie Armstrong. Armstrong was the neighborhood bully, and always in trouble. He had beat up Ann's kids. She would believe it.
Ann looked out toward the street and shook her head, her black hair swinging around her shoulders. “It’s all wet. I hope it’s water,” she said. She stared at Sandy. “Are you sure about this?”
Sandy heard a loud motorcycle speed down the street beyond the wall. “It was Armstrong,” he said, “I think.”
Ann stepped back into her house, closed the door, and snapped off the light. Again, it was dark between the houses. As Sandy turned around, he noticed that the light was on in his room. His mother stood in the doorway. She stared at him, her fists on her hips.
“What’s going on?” she asked.
Chris lifted his head out of his covers, blinking his eyes like a dug-up gopher. “What?” he said.
“What’s going on?” Sandy’s mother asked again.
Sandy stood on his pillow, his back to the darkness. He hid his wet hands behind him. “Someone broke the Randolphs’ window,” he said. “Water balloon.”
“Someone?” his mother said, walking to his bed.
The screen flapped against the bare open window.
“Close it and pull down the shade,” his mother said.
Sandy did what he was told. He turned back, and fell to his knees, covering the water drops on his pillow.
“And who would that someone be?” His mother pushed against his bed with her legs. She took off her glasses and put them in her pants pocket. Her hands went back on her hips.
Sandy could smell her flowery perfume.
“Jackie Armstrong,” he said. “I think I heard his voice.”
“How do you know it was a water balloon?” Sandy felt his mother’s glare on him, like a cat on a moth.
“That’s what Ann said. I was talking to her.” Sandy stole a glance at Chris, who was looking at his mother with his mouth open and his eyes the size of Frisbees.
“She said to you, ‘Someone broke my window with a water balloon’?”
“I think so,” Sandy said. “I don’t know. I guess there was water all over the place. Or she hoped it was water.”
His mother watched him, with one eyebrow raised, her mouth twisted in a figure eight. “Did you guys break the window?” she said.
Sandy felt his mother look right through him. He couldn’t go back now. He said, “No, I told you. It was Armstrong.”
“Mom, please. Why don’t you believe me?” Sandy could not remember lying to his mother before, not this big, not to her face. He brushed his hand through his sweaty hair. He gulped a couple of times to keep everything down. He knew his mother knew. She stood waiting, with a tired, disappointed look on her face.
Chris stayed quiet. Across the room, only his raccoon-shadowed eyes showed over his bedcovers. Sandy threw a glance at him. Chris’s look told him that he was safe. If his brother was mad at him, he would have given him up. Sandy knew he would have to keep Chris happy. He didn’t see any choice.
As he and his mother stared at each other, the telephone rang. Sandy’s mother turned to go to her bedroom to answer it. His father never got the phone at home.
“Why don’t you tell her?” Chris whispered. “She’s going to find out.”
“I already told her I didn’t do it.”
“You’re going to get in more trouble,” Chris said.
“You did this, too. It’s not just me.”
“It wasn't my balloon, I didn’t throw it, and I didn’t lie about it.”
“Shut up.” Sandy got into his bed. He lay on his back, waiting. It was like looking up at the blade of the guillotine.
“You’d better shut up, or I’m telling,” Chris said.
They both stopped talking when they heard the floor creaking in the hall. Their mother came in the room.
“Ann Randolph called. She wants to know what’s going on.” Sandy’s mother stood in the same spot, her legs up against his bed, looking into his face. Sandy pushed the back of his head deeper into his pillow. He wished he could pull the covers up over his head, and go to sleep. He felt exhausted. He wished he had never got that balloon from his friend, Ricky. He wished he had never thought of throwing it against the Randolphs' house. If he had given it to his brother, Chris probably would have popped it. And Sandy wouldn’t have this problem.
“How do I know what’s going on?” Sandy heard his own voice rise and crack. He was afraid he might start crying. He talked