Updated: Apr 2, 2022
by David Benn
I glance up at the clock. Nine o’clock Sunday night and the boys are in their pyjamas, sitting at the kitchen table playing with their phones.
There are four slices of bread in front of me. Feather-soft white bread from a plastic bag that stays fresh for over a week. Can’t stand making school lunches. I make the same school lunches. Night after night. Week after week. Year after goddamn year.
I spread dairy soft over the bread and peel two perfectly round slices of perfectly pink ham from a stack in a pink Tupperware container and place them on the bread. I close the sandwiches and wrap them both in clear plastic cling wrap. Two cling wrapped white bread sandwiches sit on the bench.
The boys' school bags are still lying on the old green sofa where they dropped them on Friday afternoon. Taking their bright blue, white, green and red National Rugby League zip up lunch boxes from their bags, I notice how heavy they are and unzip them. They contain the lunches I made on Thursday night.
Two cling wrapped ham sandwiches, cling wrapped biscuits, plastic zip lock bags of crackers and two blackened bananas. I place them down beside the lunches I've just made and turn to the boys. ‘Guys, what did you have for lunch on Friday? Do you remember?’
Harrison doesn’t lift his head from his phone. ‘We had sandwiches?’
James says nothing.
I put my hands on my hips. ‘Yeah, I made you sandwiches. But what did you actually eat?’
Harrison glances up at me for an instant. ‘Sandwiches.’
‘How about you, James?’
The younger boy lifts his head from his phone but doesn’t turn around to look. ‘I had sandwiches too.’
‘Whose sandwiches did you eat?’
This time Harrison lifts his head and frowns. ‘My sandwiches.’
‘Then how come they’re sitting here in front of me? Along with the biscuits and a rotten banana.’
Harrison tilts his head back and pinches the bridge of his nose.
James turns around. ‘I ate all of mine, Dad.’
‘Yours are here too, James.’
He looks at me for a few seconds. ’Oh, okay.’
Sitting down at the table between the two boys, I lean back in my chair. ‘Guys, put your phones down. We need to talk.’
Harrison sighs and puts his phone on the table. When James sees his older brother do this, he does the same.
‘Guys, a lie will only work if everyone is complicit in the deception and there is no evidence to prove your pretence is a fabrication. In this instance, you were halfway there, which isn’t bad for a first attempt. You both said you ate your sandwiches on Friday, and I might have believed you if the sandwiches weren’t sitting there in front of me.’
Harrison’s face is completely deadpan. 'So, next time we throw our sandwiches in the bin before we get home?’
‘No, bring your sandwiches home and put them in the fridge. Or tell me on Thursday night that you aren’t going to eat your sandwiches, so I don’t have to make them. That way you don’t have to think up a lie. And you don’t have to remember what you’ve told me.’
I turn to look at James. ‘So, did you eat anything at school on Friday?’
He shoots a glance at Harrison. ‘We had tuckshop.’
‘Well, at least you ate something. But where did you get the money for tuckshop?’
James looks at me for a few seconds then blinks. ‘As you were driving us to school Friday morning, we waited till you weren’t looking, and Harrison stole it out of your bag. He gave me half.’
Harrison drops his shoulders and closes his eyes. I sit looking at him, waiting for his eyes to open. After a few seconds they do.
‘I’m proud of you for sharing with your little brother.’
Copyright: story David Benn; photos Wix.
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