SMOKE: The Greatest Liar

Originally published: 24 May 2004

I doubt there's a better liar in this world than I. That's a pretty horrible thing to admit but - bizarrely - it's the truth.

In my defence someone has to be a greatest liar on Earth, and even though it's not necessarily an accolade most of us yearn for, at least it's something.

Don't get me wrong - I value the truth as much as anyone else, and in fact am a pretty truthful and extremely honest person. I just recognise the value of lies, is all. Sometimes they are the only option.

I was a pathological liar as a kid, mainly because the consequences of the truth were usually too dire to bear. I would weave a web of lies so intricate and complex I could never remember how they were constructed, and as we all know - once you start a lie and it gets investigated, you dig yourself ever deeper.

Well - blokes, that is. Chicks usually go to pieces without you even challenging them and admit to everything - even crimes they haven't admitted. But blokes tend to worsen the mess they create for themselves.

I was always a class above the rest in the lying game - I was not the kid who claimed innocence with a mouth covered in chocolate. Nossir. Not only would all traces of chocolate be carefully removed (clothes wrapped in acid lye and buried in the woods outside town, for instance), but I would double-guess all conceivable angles well in advance in order to be prepared for the inevitable interrogation.

Although I could conceive and plan the most diabolical of lies, my impromptu, deer-in-the-headlights, hand-in-the-cookie-jar lies were no less impressive.

I am possessed of quick wit when put to the test and considering the fact that I was an evil little bastard of a kid - I was put to the test a lot.

While most of my lies were out of necessity and to avoid impending disaster or pain, I also used them as a crutch. I was constantly having my legs kicked out from under me and needed some sort of support mechanism - I found that lies bought me a whole new world of respect.

Which in retrospect was balm to my troubled soul.

Being a kid, of course, meant that I had no real perspective on the import of my lies, which lead to me delivering some absolute whoppers which make me cringe when I think of them now.

My piéce de résistance - and still my greatest ever lie - was the Parachute Lie.

I was at a school where I was badly bullied. When you are a bullying victim nobody wants to be your mate. Obviously - it would lead to them getting bullied as well.

I was desperate for friends but had no idea how to even begin to approach trying to form friendships (shyness didn't help at all), so all I could do was try to impress others in the hope that ... what? It's a sad thing when you have to buy your friends.

So I came up with the Parachute Lie one day and while it didn't buy me many friends it certainly improved my status, as it impressed the pants off my gullible classmates.

One day some kid asked me where I was born. The first answer that came to mind was Georgetown, Guyana. Don't ask me why. I was very into maps as a kid and would spend days drawing and colouring in maps of the world, so I had a very good knowledge of geography and place names.

I knew that Georgetown was on the tip of South America, and at that age (10/11) I didn't realise that north and south America were not the same continent.

The kid who asked me - Guido Sorrentini - was duly impressed that I'd been born in America, and pressed for further details.

The attention he bestowed upon me - and the interest he showed - was gratifying in that previously nobody had given a shit about my past, and even though I was telling Guido a complete pack of lies it still felt good.

So I embellished. My father was a plantation owner and multi-millionaire who was too busy to take me to school (and the millionaire status was upheld by my dad, who worked for Nissan and got new cars to test every second week, which meant that every time kids saw me getting fetched from school my dad was in a new, cutting-edge car).

So my father gave me the use of his personal helicopter pilot and every morning I would be flown to school and would parachute out of the helicopter onto the sports field, before folding up the silk and walking up to the school buildings.

The reason this lie was so successful (I had a brief period of celebrity status after telling it) was because it captured the imagination of young boys - most of whom would give their left arm to be able to parachute into school from their dad's helicopter. It was a story straight out of Boy's Own.

Bloody Guido unfortunately rushed home to breathlessly tell his parents and I had a very hard time trying to convince him that they were idiots who knew nothing (they must have had a good, hard laugh when their kid earnestly tried to convince them that some boy of 10 was allowed to parachute to school in former French Guyana).

I remember the Parachute Lie with great fondness because it was such an impossibly fantastic tale, but the Table Tennis Champion lie was - dramatically - exposed.

This was a lie I told in my first year of high school, a few months in (at the start of the winter sports season).

Table tennis was a sport offered by our school and it was a game I'd played for years (I was particularly inspired to play it after playing against the table tennis champion of Togo in the US when I went there in Standard 4 - he was a friend of the family I was staying with and they had a table tennis table).

I had moved to my high school from junior school in another city (it was my first year in Cape Town) and once again was struggling to fit in. With table tennis I felt I was on pretty solid ground for a whopping lie. I couldn't imagine that anyone else could be better than me.

I went along to the first table tennis practice of the year and when my classmates asked me if I'd played before I told them I was a champion player for Northern Transvaal before I'd moved to Cape Town.

There was an instant buzz around the gym hall, and where I walked the throng did part respectfully.

But waiting for a table I was filled with dread, because the very people I had lied to were obviously far out of my league - these guys were seriously, seriously good players.

Naturally they all crowded around for my first game, agog with anticipation and salivating with excitement. My playing partner was a girl who was obviously playing for the first time, so I was on safe ground.

But I hadn't played for more than a year and my very first service bounced clear over the other side of the table. I made some crack about giving my opponent a fair chance (she was only a girl, after all), and the tension lessened slightly from the bulging throng, who had been badly thrown at first.

I got my next four services over and the poor girl could hardly swing at them, much less hit them - even though they were completely innocuous and would have been put away by an even faintly decent player.

When she did eventually get one back I tried to smash it (I had to do something to quell the rising murmurs of dissent) but my smash went askew and the ball hit the girl's lip, forcing her to drop to the floor.

By now the crowd knew something was up and while they didn't know exactly what, one issue they were very clear on: I was an impostor.

My shame was immense as I saw the sniggers of understanding begin, and all of a sudden they were queuing up to play against me. I had no way out and was forced into humiliating defeat after humiliating defeat, always with the laughter in the background and the knowing smiles which I forced as far to the edges of my consciousness that I could.

I went into my shell again after that day and didn't emerge for another three years, when I had proved myself in other ways.

Eventually I didn't need to tell lies in order to impress anyone, and then they merely became lies of expediency ("I have no idea how those panties got under my bed"; "There is nobody in that closet"; "I was rushing to vishit my wife in hoshtipal, osshifer").

I'd love to be able to tell the truth all the time but I'm afraid it's impossible. An oke could go to jail, you know.

All Smoked Out,
Luke Tagg
Spending time online does bad things to a person, but I'm OK.

Look at me now - all the way from Uitenhage to the bright lights of the big internet.

Find out more using the handy links provided.

Copyright © Luke Tagg. All rights reserved. A few lefts as well.

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