Memoir

A Liar’s Life

Everything I’m about to tell you is a pack of lies.

apples 5¢ signs to the jobless. We moved to the Rosedale neighbourhood of Toronto, where I was chauffeured to class every morning in a huge Pierce-Arrow, even though the school was next door.

I’m driving myself crazy, not to mention you the reader, with these whoppers. Why should you believe anything I say? But bear with me. I’m trying as hard as I can to finally break down the mental machinery that reroutes me from the truth before I catch myself. The psychologists say the pattern can be broken. Trying is my only hope for a decent life.

Calm down, I tell myself. As I sit here in my tiny room in a fleabag hotel in Fort Nelson, BC, where I’ve come in a desperate last effort to rend the tissue of lies and drive that half-buried thing called the truth out of the depths and into the light of day, I can dimly recall my-self as a seven-year-old eavesdropping on my parents whispering to somebody at the back door of our house in Charlottetown, and the realization slowly dawning on me that I was being traded for a croquet set. A used croquet set.

Sitting on the front porch that night, wondering where to go while listening to the muffled click of wood-en balls and my parents’ cries in triumph and curses in defeat, I resolved to become an aviator.

Damn it to hell!

I’ve thought about this a lot, and the odd thing is that we congenital liars aren’t even seeking an advantage by manufacturing our stupid falsehoods. Most of the time, we know the people we’re lying to know they’re being lied to. Who’d believe that story about being traded for a used croquet set, for God’s sake? Maybe it’s some perversion of the tale-telling instinct that in a normal, healthy person would create great works of literature or million-dollar screenplays. Or maybe not — I’ve conspicuously failed with every novel and script I’ve ever written.

The furiously scribbled editor’s note opposite that paragraph suggests that this whole lachrymose mea culpa is a crafty crock. To wit: “You never wrote a novel or a screenplay or anything else, and you know it.”

I mentioned in the acknowledgments that without my editor’s bottomless patience I never could have pur-sued the writing of this memoir to the end, and for once I wasn’t talking through my hat. But there I go again. I don’t have an editor. I’m probably not even going to finish this stupid “memoir,” because I’m morally and con-genitally unable to put two true sentences together.

But there I go again, again. I do have an editor, and he doesn’t deserve the tsuris I’ve put him through. The lies, the tricks, the slippery shenanigans — the spinning of one long piece of total hokum instead of the up-front, tell-all, from-the-gut memoir my proposal promised.

God, that sounded good! Too bad it was all lies. Except for once it wasn’t. And if you believe that, you’ll believe anything. For instance, did I mention my idyllic childhood in the gulag…?

Bruce McCall does illustrations and writes for The New Yorker.