A Story with a Lie #99WordStories

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills was talking about family histories not always telling the truth. There are parts of my family’s history that may not be totally accurate too. There are different versions of some tales, and not just of events from different perspectives.

Last year when I wrote a brief book about her female ancestors for my granddaughter on her tenth birthday, I included a version of a story that my father related. When his only remaining sister read the account, she informed me that it was wrong. Somehow, she said, all the males of the family told my father’s version, but my aunt was sure she had the correct version.

My father said that my great grandmother Hannah was born in England and met her future husband George in England before emigrating to Australia. He said that George came to Australia as a paying passenger and that Hannah masqueraded as a cabin boy and worked her passage out. He said that George called her Jim so as to not give her secret away. They arrived in Brisbane in1891 and married on 11th June that year. Hannah gave birth to six children, two of whom died in infancy. Fortunately for me, one of the survivors was my grandmother.

According to my aunt, it was Hannah who paid her way out and George who worked as a cabin boy. I think. Perhaps I’d better check while I can and before I spread too many other lies.

As well as untruths, many families have skeletons that they like to keep locked in the cupboard. My family has a few of those too. When my mother’s brother was researching the family history, he discovered that one of our ancestors had been transported to Australia for a minor misdemeanour, as many were, such as stealing a loaf of bread. I can’t be sure. Both my mother and uncle were horrified and didn’t want to tell anyone, but somehow the word got out. It’s not so bad really. We found out that there’s a similar ancestor on my father’s side. Nowadays, it’s more acceptable to have a convict way back in the family tree than it was for previous generations. Most are no longer fazed by it.

When Charli challenged writer to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes a lie. What is the lie? It can be subtle or blatant. Who tells the lie and why? Is it an unreliable narrator? Go where the prompt leads! how could I go past family lies and skeletons? I’m sticking with my two little girls again, sans their red car this time. I hope you enjoy it.

A Skeleton in the Cupboard

Lucy was opening and closing every cupboard in the house.

“What’re you doing?” Amy asked.

“Mum lied,” said Lucy.

“About what?”

“The skeleton.”

“What skeleton?”

The skeleton. Mum said Dad has a skeleton in the cupboard. I can’t find it.”

“You won’t find it.”

“Why not?”

“Cause it’s not a real skeleton.”

“Skeletons are so real. I’ve got one and you’ve got one. Everybody’s got one.”

“Not those sorts of skeletons.”

“Then what?”

“Secrets.”

“Secrets?”

“Things they don’t want nobody else to know.”

“So, Mum did lie.”

Amy sighed. “Mum didn’t lie, but there’s no skeleton in the cupboard.”

Thank you blog post

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

Note: The collection of stories made in response to the previous prompt Something Squeaky, excluding mine because I didn’t get it done in time, can be read at the Carrot Ranch.

43 thoughts on “A Story with a Lie #99WordStories

  1. Pingback: Lies Collection « Carrot Ranch Literary Community

  2. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Love the kid-speak of your flash. Idioms. A challenge for kids and for second language learners.
    I remember once my father warned us that it was especially cold out, told us if we ran whilst outside as our lungs would burn. I almost froze to death I moved so slowly, with visions of self combustion in my head.
    Yes! Speak with your aunt! Collect her stories.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      I agree with you about idioms. We tend to use them freely, but how we get to that point is a mystery to me.
      That’s a great story about burning lungs, but how scary for a little literal language learner.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  3. dgkaye

    I love the literal of skeletons in this Norah. And what you wrote before on family history, so true. I’ve heard many times that ask several children from one family about an incident and we’ll get differing versions. Not sure if it’s always lies, but interpretations. 🙂 xx

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    1. Norah Post author

      Interpretations for sure, Debby. As one of ten, I can verify that there may be ten different versions of the same incident. 😂 Mine is always the correct version though. 😉😂

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  4. Patricia Tilton

    Really enjoyed what you did with the prompt. You certainly have some interesting family secrets. I can see an immigration story PB with a strong female as a cabin boy! What fun! I have some in my family and differing accounts of a story — and possibly an uncle I never met.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      I think every family has it’s own stories, Patricia. They’re not always shared though. I hadn’t thought about a picture book inspired by that family tale. Thank you for the suggestion. Maybe …

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  5. Hugh W. Roberts

    One of my family members did a family tree and found a skeleton in the cupboard, Norah. One of my aunts was horrified by what he found out and didn’t want to talk about it, so she must have known about it and kept it as a secret, although I expect other family members in her generation will have also known. It’s funny how we used to laugh about how she reacted, but it proves how families have changed over the years. Back then, many things got brushed under the carpet (as my Grandmother used to say).

    I love your take on the prompt and using the phase Skeleton in the Cupboard. Very clever.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for sharing that piece of family history, while still keeping the secret, Hugh. I think it’s true that families have changed over the generations. But they are not the only things.
      Thanks for your kind words about my story.

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    1. Norah Post author

      It’s hard to know which lies best preserve kindness. Sometimes when the truth is found out, the lie is discovered to have been better not told. (that’s a bit convoluted, sorry, not expressing well).

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      1. TanGental

        There are many lies that are better than many unalloyed truths. They aim to avoid the harsh cruelty of a complex truth. I rather think people who are proud that they can never tell a lie are either lying or plain cruel! Naturally there are many truths that must be told but many that aren’t necessary. That’s my only point really.

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  6. calmkate

    appreciate your fun twist on Charli’s topic! Real convicts in the background … sadly I have none on either side.

    We can trace back their migration from UK although there was a German lass who married a Welsh great, great great maternal grandfather. Nobody can trace her at all … and one civil engineer cousin has spent a lot of time and money trying to. She sounds like she might have a very interesting story but we will never know 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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  7. Jules

    Ah… the lie that isn’t. And then there are the lies of omission when no one will tell the truth and the time comes when there is no one left to know.

    I had a story from one of my grandparents that they had entered a writing contest and won passage to America… but no one could confirm that story. I got it from the person who came over. But again one is left without any fact. So when I tell it I have to say it is a ‘might be’. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      I hope you get confirmation of your ‘might be’ story, Jules. It’s pretty cool. How wonderful to have a winning writer in your ancestry. It’s one I’d choose to believe. 🙂
      Yes, lies of omission. Too many things left unsaid.

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      1. Jules

        That it came from her lips… should be enough. Don’t know how I’d confirm it. But yes a cool story. I knew my Dad had written some Sci Fi… (that I never did get to see)… so having ‘writers’ on both sides makes me smile.

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  8. Anne Goodwin

    Skeletons in the cupboard — what a great take on the prompt. And fascinating that there should be male and female versions of your family story. And sad that previous generations would be ashamed of an ancestor stealing a loaf of bread. As today, the shame should be on governments that produce poverty.

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    1. Norah Post author

      I’m not sure why there are two different versions of the same story in my family. I must get the truth from my aunt before it’s too late. I’m grateful to Charli for reminding me about it.
      I agree with you about governments and poverty. We should offer our vulnerable people better support. Instead, it seems to be the already wealthy who keep getting richer. Surely there’s a limit to how much any one person needs or can use.

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  9. petespringerauthor

    Great job n the prompt, Norah. I wonder how often children are mystified by idioms like “skeleton in the cupboard.”

    While I understand we’d feel embarrassed if our son or daughter did something to harm the family reputation, no one should feel guilty about what someone in a previous generation did.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for your kind comment, Pete. I don’t think it’s only children who have difficulty with the idioms. Hub and I often discuss how difficult English must be for people learning it as another language. Some things just don’t seem to make sense.
      I agree with you about not feeling guilty. It can be embarrassing just the same. But I grapple with the same concept on a broader scale and how it is best to repair and heal the damage done to our First Nations peoples. This isn’t the place for that discussion though, but it does interest me.

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      1. petespringerauthor

        That is an excellent point regarding the First Nation people. This contradicts my prior sentiment, but I feel embarrassed that my country treated them so poorly. I suppose it’s a bit like slavery. We recognize how terrible and tragic that was, yet we weren’t personally responsible. Still, we want to live in a just society.

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    1. Norah Post author

      They were people too, and they lived in challenging times. Not only that, without them, I wouldn’t be here, so I have to be grateful for them, whatever their histories.
      Thanks for reading and commenting. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

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