Tall Tales
Mary Ann Wollstonecraft

Mrs. Murphy said we were supposed to write a tall tale which is a type of made-up story that is interesting but hard to believe, and it got me to thinking about the stories you tell, Billy, and how I always believed them even though nobody else did, like the one about how even though you're only eleven years old you've been on your own for a long time because your father ran off with a band of gypsies when you were a baby, and your mother ran off just before Christmas with a very tall man who wore a black cape and carried a silver cane that had a long thin sword hidden inside of it that he had used to kill a lot of men in sword fights, and the reason your mother ran off with him was because he showed her an old, half-burned map he'd bought with the last of his money that showed the secret location of a lake of gold up in Alaska, and after she ran off, you lived in your neighbor's tool shed out in back of his falling-down old house, and he never discovered you living out there because he was pretty much deaf and when he did come out to the tool shed to get a tool or something he didn't see you because he was half blind, and when I said, Oh yeah, how did you get food and water, you said the old man had an old dog who shared his food and water with you, and for a long time that old dog was your only friend, and that sometimes at night he would whisper secrets to you, secrets about scents that dogs can smell but humans can't, especially the scents of the ghosts of all the dead people that have risen up out of their graves and are still here all around us, and one day that old dog said you should go find your mother so you lit out for Alaska, hitchhiking, and when I said, Hitchhiking, when you're only eleven? you just said you had tricks to convince people that you only looked young, and they believed you so you were able to hitchhike all the way out to Hollywood where you met a bunch of movie stars who let you live in their giant fancy mansions that had at least ten swimming polls each and the bathroom faucets were all made of gold, so you unscrewed the faucets and sold them to get money to buy a fancy car to drive up to Alaska where you asked everybody where that lake of gold was, and they all said they had heard of it, and most of them believed it was real, but nobody had ever been able to find it, so you made up your mind that you would be the one to find it, and although you just about died of the cold out there in the wilderness of snow and mountains all by yourself, and almost died of hunger, and just about got eaten by packs of huge wolves with big teeth that followed you everywhere you went, you did finally find the lake of gold, and for a while you were the richest person in Alaska and maybe the richest person in the entire world, but there were some con men that ran the government of Alaska and they cheated you out of all the gold, so you had to hitchhike back here and go back to living in that old tool shed and go back to talking to that old dog about the ghosts that are all around us and come back to school where I asked you what you had been up to during Christmas vacation and you told me that story, and I went straight to Mrs. Murphy to ask her if the stories you are always telling people are true, but she just said you had a good imagination, so that's why I'm giving you back the long love chain you made me out of gum wrappers, and I'm calling off our going steady because I don't believe you really did go to Hollywood, and I don't believe you went to Alaska and found a lake of gold—but I do believe what that old dog said about the ghosts that have risen up out of their graves and are all around us, because my dog told me the same thing.

Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

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