Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire
by Jim Harrington
Johnny and I sat in these windows everyday after school, like a pair of twin tabbies. We started when we were six, watching the other kids play stickball, and kickball, and flag football in the street. We couldn’t join them. Dad said we weren’t to go outside until he got home from work. He didn’t give us a reason, but we knew it was because mom got hit by a delivery truck while jaywalking and talking on her cellphone.
We ate snacks--Ritz crackers, or Wheat Thins, or dried fruit--as Mrs. Browning walked her yappy Yorkie, Lady Gladys. Mr. Jameson would wave on his way to the lobby to deliver the mail. Ratty Ron--that’s what we called him--played his taped-up saxophone on the corner. He wasn't very good, but a few folks dropped money into the hat lying uninterested by his feet.
We were on the seventh floor and the windows didn’t open, so we took turns having a conversation with each one of them. We agreed we didn’t like Mrs. Browning much, nor Lady Gladys. They both walked with their noses in the air and ignored everyone else, including us.
One Wednesday afternoon, when we were ten, a firetruck, it’s siren screaming for blocks, came to a halt across the street. Six firemen in black and yellow coats and hats--three in the cab and three on the back--jumped off the truck and rushed through the door, almost knocking over a girl who dad ordered us to stay away from because she was a hooker. There was smoke coming out of Mrs. Browning’s apartment. We noticed it, but didn’t call 911. We just waited to see what would happen. The only fireman wearing a white hat stared up at us. We moved away from the windows, afraid he might come and ask us questions. We didn’t want him to know what we knew.
Johnny brought some crack home from school on our sixteenth birthday. I told him he was crazy and that I wouldn't try it, but he called me a chicken. The walls started changing shapes, and then I saw the delivery truck that killed mom. I pushed it. Once. Twice. A third time. The truck crashed through the window. Shards of glass flew beside it in slow motion. I stuck my head outside, saw the truck lying on its back on the sidewalk, its legs bent at odd angles, and smiled. Dad would be proud of me.
The police came. They took me to the hospital and one of them waited in my room until I could talk to him. Dad was there, too. The policeman asked him to leave, but dad refused. That’s when the officer told us about Mrs. Browning seeing me push Johnny out the window.
“The bitch is lying,” I screamed. “She never liked us.”
Dad laid his hand on my arm. I continued to yell until a nurse came in and gave me a shot.
I got home about an hour ago. Dad had to go back to work, but he asked his sister, Aunt Jessie, to stay with me. She hadn't arrived by the time he left, but that was okay. I needed to decide how I was going to make Mrs. Browning tell the truth, and what I would do to her if she didn't. Her and Lady Gladys.
I asked Johnny, and he said a smoke bomb wouldn't do this time. It needed to be a real fire. I perched by the window and waited for Mrs. Browning and Lady Gladys to finish their late morning walk. Our new plan wouldn't be any fun if the two of them weren't home.
(c) 2011 Jim Harrington
(Topic for Flash Jab Challenge #2)