D’Gina, or, Every Story Is True

I do this trick I call The Gina. Da Gina or D'Gina. It's for when someone's crazy and I hate them. It's for people who lie to your face and stick to the lie no matter what.

My father said every story is true if you know where to look, and made-up stories tell you more than true stories. I see that everywhere now. There's a presidential election coming, and I see all these stories people believe no matter what, or deny no matter what. Like a guy says something about coal and it isn't true. OK, it's not true about coal but it's true about him. He gets shouted down and ridiculed but he repeats his story. Why does he put himself through all that? What does he care about so much? Not coal. He's not stupid. He knows coal and that's not it. He's saying something else that's hard to say and this is the only way he can, once you see through the coal.

I got the idea in fourth grade. Homework got hard in fourth grade. A lot of nights we made something fast for dinner, like mac'n'cheese and six cherry tomatoes for a vegetable, and at bedtime we still weren't done. A lot of nights my father had to look something up on Wikipedia so he could help me, like Least Common Denominator.

We were driving home from school and we had a bad night of homework ahead.

MY FATHER
Something's bothering you.

ME
(growls)
No.

MY FATHER
Whoa, what a growl!

ME
A girl in my class.

MY FATHER
Yeah?

ME
Remember Gina?

MY FATHER
Yeah.

ME
I wanted her for soccer but she said she doesn't like soccer. She's lying! She loves soccer and she's great at it. She never stops jumping to fake you out. You can't guess which way she'll go or when. How stupid does she think I am? Like when I asked her about soccer she started talking about that carnival every summer, and how the carnival guys wanted her to go around with them, and she told them sure, next time they come, so now they're watching for her. She says all kinds of things like that. She even lies when it doesn't get her anything, just to keep in practice.

MY FATHER
Hmmmm.

ME
So forget her!

MY FATHER
Maybe she talks the way she plays soccer? Jumping all around to confuse everyone? You can't guess which way she'll go?

ME
Yeah, but it only works in soccer.

MY FATHER
There was a guy in baseball they called Mr Hustle. You know how baseball can be kind of a sleepy sport, with the guy in right field standing in the sun and chewing and scratching while the pitcher and the catcher have a debate in sign language and just when they make up their minds the batter steps out? Mr Hustle never zoned out. He never stopped moving and he never got tired. He always got the jump on you, by a split second. He said all those split seconds added up and he piled up great numbers over the years. He set a lot of records. He said he knew he wasn't very good so he had to be tricky instead.

ME
(growling)
Yeah, Gina never gets tired.

MY FATHER
Maybe she's thinks she's not very good, so she has to be tricky instead?

ME
Yeah, but she's no good at tricks either. Like that carnival!

MY FATHER
You remember how a squid squirts a cloud of ink to escape? In World War II we had planes that did that. They were huge slow bombers that had to fly low if they wanted to hit anything, but then enemy radar could see them and shoot them down. So the bombers dropped a cloud of aluminium strips called chaff that clouded up the radar screens.

ME
Cool.

MY FATHER
Maybe Gina's doing that?

ME
Chaff?

MY FATHER
You want to try something?

ME
OK.

MY FATHER
You be her. You be Gina.

ME
I can't do Gina. She's crazy.

MY FATHER
I'll be you. Ready?

ME
OK.

MY FATHER (as ME)
Hey Gina, we need you for soccer. It's great how you fake everybody out and get them tired.

ME (as GINA)
When is that carnival coming back, you know, out by Shoprite?

ME (as ME)
How do I know what she would say?

MY FATHER (as MY FATHER)
You need good shoes for soccer, right? Does Gina have good shoes? Does she wear good shoes in class?

ME (as ME)
No, she wears rotten shoes with holes in the sides. We saw her toe coming through once. She waved at the whole class with her toe.

MY FATHER (as MY FATHER)
She didn't try to hide it.

ME (as ME)
No, she made a puppet show or something.

MY FATHER (as MY FATHER)
A puppet show could hide something, couldn't it?

ME (as ME)
Yeah, if she's embarrassed.

MY FATHER (as MY FATHER)
If she doesn't have shoes for class, maybe she doesn't have soccer shoes? Or shin guards, or wrist guards, or a water bottle? Or the fruit plate we take turns bringing for everyone?

ME (as ME)
Yeah. You lose your shin guards and your parents get mad, that stuff adds up.

MY FATHER (as MY FATHER)
Have you seen Gina's parents?

ME (as ME)
(thinking)
No.

MY FATHER (as MY FATHER)
Driving her to school, picking her up?

ME (as ME)
No.

MY FATHER (as MY FATHER)
Talking to her teachers? Taking her and her friends to the movies? Anything?

ME (as ME)
I've never seen them. I don't think anyone has.

MY FATHER (as MY FATHER)
Have kids been to her house? For a party, or to play, or just to drop her off?

ME (as ME)
No. Weird.

MY FATHER (as ME)
So Gina, wanna come over Saturday? My father put up a soccer net in back.

ME (as GINA)
Nah, there's a motorcycle show, and all the guys are expecting me.

MY FATHER (as MY FATHER)
(laughs)
There you go!

MY FATHER (as ME)
Guys, guys, who's gonna drive us? Gina, can your Dad or someone drive us?

ME (as GINA)
Yeah, no, he's going for his pilot's license. It's his second try. He's freaking out. He almost flipped the plane last time.

MY FATHER (as ME)
Say, Gina, you talk the way you play soccer, you know?

ME (as GINA)
Yeah, no. Maybe. Who knows?

MY FATHER (as ME)
Yeah, you jump around, you fake everybody out, you keep everybody guessing.

ME (as GINA)
Whatever. When I'm up for it.

MY FATHER (as ME)
You're always up.

ME (as GINA)
Why not, with the breaks I got. I feel bad for some of these kids, they didn't get the breaks.

MY FATHER (as ME)
Yeah, be glad you're not me. My Dad's too old to run but he doesn't know it.

ME (as ME)
(laughing)

ME (as GINA)
That's nothing. My Dad crushed his leg on a motorcycle. He can't run or ride so now he flies.

MY FATHER (as MY FATHER)
Now you've got it! My girl!

ME (as ME)
(laughing)
Yeah!

MY FATHER
Now do that all your life, whenever someone makes you mad and you can't figure them out. Do Da Gina on them.

ME
If they're crazy and I hate them.

MY FATHER
Do it until you can talk just like them, you know just what they'll say.

ME
Yeah. I can.

MY FATHER
You even know what they say about you, when you're not around.

ME
(laughs)
Like looking at myself from across the playground, from inside someone who hates me.

MY FATHER
There's nothing better you can learn, ever.

ME
Better than long division?

MY FATHER
We watch a lot of movies. That's where you learn it.

ME
So I should skip math and watch movies?

MY FATHER
True stuff is too easy. The made-up stuff, someone had to want it bad.

ME
The more you make up, the more of you goes into it. The more it says about you.

MY FATHER
Exactly.

ME
(laughing)
Like, a lie says you're a liar?

MY FATHER
Every story is true, if you know where to look.

ME
(laughing)
Did I tell you about our tree, how high I got? I could see all the way over our house. I saw a light from your basement window, going through the long grass to the woods, where the sun was behind my head, and made a huge shadow.

MY FATHER
(laughing)
Right, right.

ME
(laughing)
A hot air balloon came out of the sun. That was the huge shadow. It lifted me out of the tree. I told it to put me down in that light from your window.

MY FATHER
(nodding)
Good driver.

ME
I got on my knees to look in. You had ten women in there, Curves owners who just bought your software. They were walking around laughing, not sitting. They were all around your desk, and you were showing them how members beep the barcode at the door.

MY FATHER
(laughing)
Ten! Great! Could you make that a dozen?

ME
They pointed up at me and laughed, and you turned around and saw my face in the window, and you laughed....

So that's D'Gina. I do D'Gina all through this book, on everyone: my judge, my lawyer, Judge Bender and Teddi, my mother. D'Gina saves me from hating everyone.

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