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3 Kinds of Lies

Story by Kayla Rutledge (Read author interview) June 20, 2022

Art by Grianghraf

1. Lies You Tell Other People

I read that book. I saw that movie. I never said that. I loved my college; I miss the Midwest. The snow had no footprints; it had always just fallen. The window in my dorm room was a kind of glass that alchemized the sun to silver. Under that light, I always looked beautiful. I was never the roommate who left dishes in the sink. When my father called, I answered the phone. I felt, very much, like myself.

I took that job to make a difference in the world, and not because it was far away. The moving truck blew a tire, but it wasn’t an omen. You could see the white dome of the capital from my bedroom; I called it the moon when I slept. I believed in the country I lived in just enough to be a patriot, but not enough to be wrong. There is a picture from that day of my father and me under the cherry trees. We look like we belong in the smiling, pink-lipped world. When we unloaded the boxes, nothing was broken. All of it looked right.

When I think of my father, I think of how he once made me a small zoo of animals using only Legos and a paintbrush, how every animal had a pair but the giraffe, because we only had enough bricks for one long neck. When I think of my father, I think of this partnerless giraffe. I do not think about voicemails, or money, or parking lots, or Narcan, or needles.

 

2. Lies You Tell Yourself

Everyone is mad at me. I’ll start tomorrow. I need to be happy. I knew we weren’t right for each other. When my child broke his wrist, he did not need to take those painkillers. If he knew, he would understand. When I was cruel, I had a good reason. There was an excuse.

When I stopped speaking to my father, I hoped we would speak again in the future. When I stopped speaking to my father, it was because he was cruel to my partner, my best friend, my child, my dog, the server, you, not me. I was never ashamed of him.

When I think of my father, I remember I am only seeing him through some kind of alchemized glass. If I broke the glass, he would be there, whole and unharmed. He would say, “Remember when I made you the zoo?”

 

3. Lies Other People Tell You

She didn’t mean to. He regrets it. They wanted to invite you, but you were working. Your application was given serious consideration. You are the first person — the last — the best — the only. Your lover never loved anyone before you. Everything will work out in the end.

Your father never resented you. When he was in the hospital, it made him happy that you came to visit. In the doorway, you looked like the last flower in the jar. Your legs after winter, pale and green-veined as stems. He didn’t mean it when he snapped at you. “It’s only appendicitis.” You sat on the bed and not in a chair. You smoothed his hair with the flat of your hand. Afterward, he told the nurse he remembered the day you were born.

The pamphlets, the prayers, they tell you: there isn’t anything you could have done. It wasn’t your fault.

Your father will be back soon. He is making a second giraffe.

About the Author

Kayla Rutledge has an MFA in fiction from NC State University. Originally from Charlotte, North Carolina, she is the recipient of the 2019 James Hurst Prize for Fiction from NC State and the 2020 Louis D. Rubin, Jr. Prize in Creative Writing from UNC-Chapel Hill. Her work has appeared in Fractured Literary, Waxwing, the Santa Ana River Review, and elsewhere.

About the Artist

Grianghraf is a photographer based in Madrid, Spain. Follow him on Instagram.

This story appeared in Issue Seventy-Six of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Seventy-Six
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