‘The Lie’ by Maeve Brennan

The Lie by Maeve Brennan, 1953

The magic trick:

Showing two different situations that highlight the nature of the relationship between the narrator and her mother 

I’ve read a lot of stories for this website about confession. And I’ve read a lot of stories that served as portraits of moms. Well, “The Lie” combines the two in an interesting way.

The narrator goes to confession for the first time as a seven-year-old girl, but that’s not really what the story is about. Then it morphs into a funny vignette involving a sewing machine and a sibling rivalry. But that’s not really what the story is about either.

Both topics come back around to the relationship between the narrator and her mother. Both topics generate situations that put the young narrator in a position to share an inside joke with her mom. Which is about the best possible outcome for her at that age. She loves it.

And that’s quite a trick on Brennan’s part.

The selection:

My mother and Derry came running, and we all dashed into the garden and surveyed the pitiful remains of the little machine. Derry began to cry. I was very much upset. After all, it was my first murder.

My mother stooped down and gathered up the pieces. “How did it happen to fall out the window, Maeve?” she asked.

“I don’t know, I was only holding it in my hand and out it went. Isn’t it a good thing I didn’t fall out, too?”

My mother refused to be diverted by the picture of me following the machine down onto the cement.

“Are you sure you did nothing to make it fall out, Maeve?”

“Oh, no!” I cried. “No, I didn’t!” and tears of real grief filled my eyes, to think that she would believe me capable of such an act.

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