Youngsters, today, are an unpredictable lot. There’s no saying how they‘ll react if you feed them the truth, plain and unvarnished. If it’s something particularly distasteful, it might even leave a permanent scar on their psyche. Which is why, being a pious sort of person myself, I do tell them the truth, but only when I’m sure it’s not going to do any harm. If I feel there’s a chance that they’ll be badly affected, I avoid saying anything at all. But if I find myself in a tricky situation and am forced to provide an explanation, I allow myself the liberty to tweak the truth slightly, so long as it’s in a good cause. The other day, I found myself in that sort of situation. Just when I thought I had managed to talk my way out of it, complications arose, and my well meant explanation landed me in a fix.
It happened when I got back after a rather painful encounter with my dentist. I looked in the mirror and grew alarmed at what I saw. It wasn’t much of a face to start with, but after the dentist had had a go at it, it was positively frightening. I thought of my grandson and how I would answer his questions. I could tell him, point blank, that the dentist was responsible, but I was afraid the truth might upset him. After all, he has a life ahead of him; a life that is bound to include many a visit to the dentist. It wouldn’t do, to put him off dentists at such a tender age. Besides, his mother, my daughter, might hold me accountable. So I thought hard about the matter, and before I knew it, there he was.
“Grandpa, what happened to your face?”
“Oh that?” I said, smiling a lopsided smile, on account of my jaw being out to there on the left side. I caressed the misshapen member. “Ever heard of Mike Tyson, the boxer?”
“Well, I met him when I was out shopping, and felt sorry for him. I thought his style needed correcting and offered to show him how, so he’d have a chance to win back his title. He was very grateful and asked me to demonstrate. I was explaining to him how important it was to keep one’s guard up at all times . . . and do you know what he went and did?”
“What?”, asked my grandson, wide-eyed.
“He hit me with a full blooded left hook even before I was ready. That’s why my face appears a trifle out of shape.”
“Did he knock you out, Grandpa?” asked young Rehan solicitously.
“Certainly not”, I replied. What do you think I’m made of .. . . cotton wool?”
“Never! He’d be a fool to even try. Let me feel your muscle, Grandpa.”
So I flexed my arm and smiled my modest, lopsided smile as the youngster felt my biceps.
“My God, you could have killed him with that”, observed Rehan who I have always maintained, is a perceptive little fellow.
“That’s all very well,” I agreed, “but remember, I’m a gentleman, and gentlemen don’t allow themselves to brawl with roughnecks like Tyson, whatever the provocation.”
“But are you sure it was a left hook that got you, Grandpa?”
“Of course”, I snapped. “You’re speaking to an experienced boxer, you know.”
“Then I know just how that sneaky mister Tyson hit you, without you being able to defend yourself. He must have hit you from behind. How else could he have landed a punch with his left hand, to the left side of your face?
Now tell me what really happened to your face, Grandpa.”