Writer’s trio Issy Jinarmo‘s collaborative short story: A Little White Lie

Editor’s note: This is a first for DoubleSpeak to publish a short story written by three people who has come to find a single identity through their words. The three authors didn’t know each other before they came together in a writers conference and the trying times of the pandemic made them see they can be one when it comes to writing.

“I can’t make it this weekend, Josh,” Jake explained as he stood across from his friend.

“Dad wants me to help him with the car, and I promised Mum I would help her with some chores,” he continued as he looked across at the photo of his mum and dad. Lying didn’t come easy to Jacob, and he hated lying to his friend.

“Not gonna be the same without you mate, the guys will miss you, we are going to have a blast, Sleeping on the beach, surfing and the surf club dance, gonna be so many hot chicks, man. Can’t you get out of it with your oldies?”

As next-door neighbours, Joshua and Jacob had been thrown together, Josh being born one day ahead of Jake. They had travelled similar milestones but overtime they had developed into different characters. Joshua was a fool-hardy risk-taker, got into scrapes at school, while Jacob was a quiet, gentle boy who cringed when Josh gave the teachers back-chat. Of late he noticed Joshua had taken to drinking and began smoking.

Josh was a high academic achiever, excelled at sport while Jake was a plodder, who got there in his own sweet time. You could say they were like the hare and the tortoise, but Josh had always been loyal to his, so-called ‘younger friend’. He stood beside him if the chips were down. This made it harder for Jake to pull away from his friend’s recent endeavours.

“Nah, Mum hasn’t been real well of late so I feel I need to help her.” He took a huge gulp, the photo of his parents staring across the room at him from the mantelpiece.

“Well if things change man, let me know. We are leaving Friday night to head up the coast.” Jake smiled as Josh pushed the wire door open, jumped over the fence going home.

Friday came around quickly and he watched apprehensively as Josh flung his backpack over his shoulder and headed to the station to meet his friends. Jake didn’t know how he was going to get out of socialising with Josh and his anxiety peaked when he heard Josh’s mother call over the fence to enquire about his mother’s health.

“Umm,” he stammered, “ahh, she’s not well, think it might be Covid, I’m sorry I can’t invite you in, Mrs Blake… but…you know…”

“Oh my goodness Jake, I am sorry to hear that,” she started backing away, “can I do anything? Shopping perhaps?”

“No, thanks Mrs Blake, I can do all that. I’ll let you know if there is anything though.” He tried to sound nonchalant, while cringing inside.

“I wondered why you weren’t going away with Josh on his trip. Did you tell him your parents were ill?”

“Ahh, umm, no, I don’t believe I did.”

“Why ever not? He will be thinking it odd you didn’t want to go. You used to do everything together you two boys.”

“I know…I…err…I just didn’t want to worry him. I didn’t want to go in case I have caught it and passed it on to the other chaps.”

Jake reddened as the little white lie became more complicated. He cursed himself for being a wimp.

“You’re a thoughtful lad, Jake. Tell your mum I’ll phone her later.”

“Ohh…Mrs Blake, can you leave it a few days, she really isn’t well enough.”

“I should have realised…oh well, I’ll ring your dad tonight, just to send sympathy and see if I can help him in any way.”

“Mrs…Mrs Blake, no,” he tried to keep the panic out of his voice, “I think Dad is coming down with it too. He starts a coughing fit whenever he tries to talk. We are okay, truly, I will let you know if I need help though. Thank you for caring – best neighbour in the world.” He tried to look nonchalant as he grinned at her.

He hurried into the house, cheeks burning. “I’ve never told so many lies in such a short time,” he said to the pretty young girl sitting on the lounge, he reached for the bottle of champagne to refill her glass as he plopped down beside her.

“I wish Mum and Dad didn’t think of you as a threat to my morality,” he grinned at her cheekily, “I thought we’d have a peaceful lost weekend with them away and no Josh sticking his head in the door every five minutes, and now look at the mess I’ve got myself into.”

“Why, what happened?” Janine rubbed his knee and looked at him over the top of the glass.

Jake repeated his conversation with Mrs Blake to the bewildered girl.

“Good heavens, Jake, why didn’t you just say your parents were away and you had an old friend visiting for the weekend?”

“Because I’m an idiot. She caught me on the hop and I couldn’t think straight.”

“Well, come here idiot,” she said as she drew him close, “We have two days before we have to worry about any more explaining.”

He sighed as he let himself be pulled into her arms, ‘she really is the most gorgeous thing I’ve ever seen,’ he thought.

Just then the phone rang.

“Oh, damn!” Jake murmured, “it’s Mum, I’ve got to take this, Janine.”

“Really?” Janine’s face dropped. “Do not ignore me, Jake!” Her voice was tinged with anger.

Jake’s stomach lurched. ‘I wonder how Josh would handle the situation?’ he thought. He gave a sigh. He really did like Janine a lot, but where was this ‘liking’ leading him? He had lied to Josh and Mrs Blake, now his mother was calling him plus Janine was not happy with him.

“H-hey, Mum,” Jake stammered, disentangling himself from Janine’s arms. “Yes, all good. No, nothing’s wrong. No, no-one is here!”

Janine glared at Jake.

Jake continued: “Are you okay, Mum? You sound like you have a cold?”

He paused again. Janine attempted to kiss him. “Okay. Give me a call later and let me know how the cough is.”

“What’s wrong?” Janine asked.

Jake didn’t answer for a moment. He stood up and started pacing up and down the room. “I should never have told that lie, that’s what’s wrong. Now Mum isn’t well. She could have Covid. I’ve jinxed her. The lie I told Mrs Blake is coming true.”

“Don’t be so dramatic, Jake,” Janine slammed down her glass, champagne spilling over the coffee table. She was angry at Jake’s comment. She stubbed her cigarette in the ashtray and stood up. “Your mum has probably just got a cold. Come on, finish your bubbles and then we can go to your room, and…well, who knows what may happen!”

“Sorry Janine, this isn’t a good idea.”

“You are kidding me, Jake! I’m off. If you think I’m hanging around here while you are feeling so bloody guilty you’ve got another think coming. Call me when you’ve sorted yourself out. People tell lies, well, ‘white’ lies, all the time. Get over it.” Janine picked up her bag, stamped her way down the hallway and strode out of the house.

“Bloody hell,” mumbled Jake. “This is all I need. Why have I allowed my life to get so bloody complicated?” He put down his glass and raced down the hallway after Janine.

Mrs Blake placed the last of her washing on her Hill’s hoist, stooped to pull a few weeds from a garden bed then walked over to the side of her house and dropped them in her green bin.

She sniffed. ‘That’s odd,’ she thought. ‘I can smell smoke. Jake must be cooking something on the stove for his mum and dad. He is a dear kind boy,’ she thought. She gave another sniff. The smell was getting stronger. ‘That’s not something on the stove, that’s a fire burning!’ She pulled her mobile out of her jeans’ pocket and dialled 000!

“Fire Brigade, please,” she shouted. Her eyes were now fully focused on the smoke billowing from her neighbour’s open lounge room window. “Help, please,” she yelled. “There’s a fire in the house next to me. Inside there are two people sick with Covid. Their son is there too. Help! Help!”

Mrs Blake ran to her neighbour’s front door shortly after Janine left, Jake was standing at the door in a daze.

“I’m so glad you are okay, now what about your mum and dad, best check on them, Jake.” He looked at her bewildered until he noticed the strong smell of smoke. They raced into the lounge room to see a pile of magazines next to the coffee table alight. Janine’s cigarette had rolled from the ashtray. Mrs Blake picked up the throw-over from the lounge and smothered the flames.

“I’ll cancel the fire brigade, you check your mum and dad,” she muttered, pulling her phone out of her jeans, but it was too late as the fire engine arrived all sirens and lights blaring.

‘Could things get any worse,’ Jake whispered as four hefty firemen arrived at his door, pushing their way past, and to his surprise his mother and father following.

The house went into total confusion, the fireman trudging along the hall to the lounge room, Mrs Blake running around looking for Jake’s parents, who were outside running toward the house, and Jake in a total state of shock.

“What’s going on, Jake?” his father roared down the hall. “Oh God, the house is on fire!”

“It’s all under control.” Assured one of the firemen, taking notes then reporting to the station that all was okay.

“Where did you come from?” called Mrs Blake, addressing Jake’s parents, Maud and Samuel.

“What has been going on here, Jake? We felt there was something strange in your voice when we spoke on the phone, so we decided to head home.”

“…but what about your Covid, are you both okay?” Mrs Blake questioned.

“ Covid? yelled the fireman, we should have been alerted.”

“I did tell the operator when I made the call, didn’t they tell you?” The fireman didn’t have time to respond before Samuel interrupted.

“What do you mean, why would you think we had Covid. My wife just told Jake she had a cold. What is the big drama? The fire is the issue here.”

“Well, that’s a relief! Look, I have all the information I need, so I am going to leave you all to sort this out.” The largest of the fireman stated as he shook his head, indicating to his colleagues they were leaving. They trudged up the hall with their big boots, Maud’s eyes following their every step, looking at the debris they had left behind.

“Ok, let’s sit down and get to the bottom of all this.” Sam said, in a less than an impressed manner.

“Not much harm has been done, dear. I’ll put on the kettle and we can settle down and sort this all out.” Mrs Blake walked to the kitchen to assist Maud. Jake sat as far from his father as he could, anticipating what was coming.

‘I’ll have no choice but to tell the truth this time,’ he thought, ‘although they probably won’t believe it anyway. I hardly believe me.’

Mrs Blake and Maud handed out the teacups and settled on the lounge chairs. After a short silence, they all looked at Jake, waiting for his explanation. The photo of his parents, was glaring at him from the mantelpiece.

“M…Mum, D…Dad, this all happened because I didn’t want to hurt Josh’s feelings. I told what I thought was a little white lie, but I have learnt my lesson, it has all blown up in my face.” No-one said anything, so he continued.

“…and it wasn’t my idea for Janine to come over,” he blabbered. “She really likes Josh but as he was away she insisted she come here, and she smokes which caused the fire when she got annoyed with me for not wanting to… well, you know. I wasn’t ready and it all went downhill from there.”

“Slow down Jake, who on earth is Janine?”

“Give him a chance, dear,” Maud interjected. “You can see he regrets his actions.”

So to the shock of his parents and Mrs Blake, who had always been like a second mother to him, Jake continued with the twists and turns of his actions and their eventual outcomes. He admitted that even little white lies had consequences. He agreed that Janine was probably not the type of girl he wanted to be involved with, and somehow the mantelpiece photo seemed to reflect approval.

Issy Jinarmo is a pen name for writing trio Jill Baggett, Narelle Noppert and Maureen Kelly OAM. They live far apart, thousands of miles separate them. Having met through The Fellowship of Australian Writers, they began writing as a group by email in 2020 when life, as we knew, took a sudden shift and online pastimes became a way of keeping friends in touch. So Issy was born and has now been published eleven times in magazines, anthologies and online.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s