The challenge at terribleminds this week is to tell lies. Not having kids, I can only imagine what really goes on in a teenage boy’s bedroom, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t this. (1000 words)
Honey ham, sliced cheddar, dark rye…ooh, roast beef, too. Perfect.
I loaded my arms full of sandwich fixings, taking a pass on the veggies, and piled them all into my duffle bag. I hesitated at the mayo but took it anyway (good fat, there) and left the mustard. With the stove fan going and her back to me, Mom wouldn’t even notice me here unless….
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!
Fuck. Held the door open too long: busted by the fridge. Mom turned around in surprise and frowned, catching me red-handed with a two-pound bag of deli beef.
“Jamie, what are you doing? Dinner’s in under an hour. Put that back.”
“It’ll be fine, Mom. I’m starving.”
She gave me the standard-issue Mom-the-Martyr look. “I just bought that deli stuff and it’s supposed to last all week. I swear: one sixteen-year-old human shouldn’t be able to eat like you and still be so weedy.”
I shrugged. “Like Gramma says: I’m a growing boy….”
“Yeah? Well, Gramma doesn’t have to buy your groceries,” she grumped, turning back to the sizzling pan. “Don’t you dare ruin your appetite.”
“I won’t, Mom. Promise.” It was so easy to lie now. I zipped the duffle closed and bolted up the stairs.
Dad was coming down the hall with the basketball as I fumbled for my door key. “Hey, James, how ‘bout a quick game of Horse before dinner?”
“No thanks. Homework,” I said, hefting the bag. He wouldn’t know it was mostly full of groceries. “Got a test tomorrow in Poli-Sci.”
“Atta boy. Keep up those grades or that lock comes off.”
“Yup, I know.”
He went downstairs. I entered my room and closed the door firmly behind me.
I heard the first loud growl of hunger as I dumped my loot on the bed. I hadn’t even finished arranging everything to make the first sandwich before another grumble came, sounding even more impatient.
“Shut up already, I’m workin’ on it….”
Once I cracked open the zip-locks of cold-cuts, meat smells drifted into the room. No stopping it now. I stuffed a slice of beef into my mouth and opened the louvered closet doors.
The tawny griffin hunched inside bumped her head on the ceiling. She clacked her black beak at me eagerly, gold-and-black eyes nearly sparking with excitement, and squeezed forward into the room. A hand-sized downy feather pulled free on a door hinge. She rumbled again as she spied the sandwiches on the bed.
“Hi, sweetie. You know you need to sit before you get anything,” I reminded her. Her owl-ears flattened and she obediently plunked her butt on the carpet. The long feline tail curled around her hawk feet and thumped against the foot of my bed.
Raising a griffin in your second-story bedroom is sort of like building a boat in your basement. There comes a point at which you (belatedly) realize that the door just isn’t going to be big enough for your project to leave. I’d waited too long to come clean about my pet, and now, well…I dunno. That day would certainly be interesting.
Dad’s voice called from outside my door: “What was that noise? Everything okay in there, bud?”
I froze in panic—When did he come back up? Did he hear me? Did he hear HER?—but my voice was calm and measured when I answered, “Fine, Dad! Just unloading my books. God, you know how heavy these things are? Gonna need a chiropractor after I graduate!”
“Yeah, I bet.”
I relaxed as his footsteps continued toward the stairs. The griffin raised her owl-ears so high they brushed dust off the ceiling fan. She trilled quietly, looking between me and the treasure trove on the bed. At least she had manners.
“Okay, here. Watch the fingers.” She leaned down and the cinnamon hackle feathers glowed like copper in the sun. She pinched the sandwich with just the points of her beak, tossed her head and it was gone. Another trill and a curious sideways tilt of her neck, and the purr started. Even with my shoes on I could feel it in the floor. After she first did that last year I’d told Dad it was the subwoofer making that noise, and so far that lie still worked.
So many, many lies.
So many, many lies.
“’Nother one?” I asked unnecessarily. I’m sure she could eat every pet in the whole neighborhood at once if she wanted to, but she seemed to understand that she could get me in trouble if she was greedy. I tried to feed her more dog kibble than deli meat, though: I mean, how much salty, preservative-laden turkey pastrami is healthy for a griffin, anyway? Some things you just can’t find on Google, no matter how hard you search.
I piled together some more sandwiches and she snapped them up as quickly as I could offer them; like a happy cat, the purr only stopped long enough for her to swallow. After the last she walked her front feet forward into a long canine bow, squinting her eyes shut and spreading her talons before dropping into a sphinx pose next to my bed. A couple of months ago, when she’d knocked all the breakables off my bookshelves with one sweep of those barred goshawk wings, I’d told Mom I’d been throwing the baseball to myself and it got away from me; she’d believed that.
When the griffin rested her head on the bed, longingly eyeing the leftovers, I scratched her eye-ridges. “Y’know, one of these days they’re going to find out the truth, big girl,” I said, hearing Mom calling us to dinner. “What are we gonna do then, hmm?”
She purred, regarding me with one half-lidded golden eye, probably not caring that for her own safety she’d forced me to become such an accomplished liar. I locked her in and headed down with the sandwich stuff, chuckling at a thought.
I should run for Congress. I could teach all those amateurs a thing or two.