The True Story of Pinky Frasier, The 256th Annual World’s Greatest Liar (pdf)
by B. Tyler Burton
I am the World’s Greatest Liar. No kidding. (That’s a little joke we in the business like to make from time to time.) All you have to do is ask one of my colleagues and he’ll probably give you the straight answer. After a good few hours of hard prying on your part it’s even possible to get the World’s Greatest Liar to tell a truth sometimes. I didn’t say we were politicians.
In fact, to be a liar of the first class you must disavow any interest in politics. (For the record, at least. We have to make our money somehow.) That is to say: no kissing babies, no reapportioning the middle-classes’ taxes to retrofit a cabana in Bali with palm trees that bear sausages instead of coconuts, and absolutely no promising them they’ll get their money back in the end (though this is certainly one of the greatest lies of all). It’s just too easy. And that’s why, in 1932, under the venerable leadership of Sir Thomas Snively, the Chapter voted to permanently exclude all politicians from our ranks (but not our rolodexes). This was probably done out of spite, for Sir Thomas was a self-made man and not a rich boy’s patsy, who came from a family with a long history of Prevaricators in their line; and after years of failing at everything from novel writing to selling electric vacuums that wouldn’t exist for some years afterwards, he must have gotten sick of coming each year to these hallowed halls, forced to raise his glass to the fat cats at the head of the table who had taken the easy route and gone into the business of governing.
As was characteristic of the time, Sir Thomas staged a liar’s revolt, and in a few weeks, with the purported pantaloons of the former chairman hanging from the flagpole, he established this most important edict. “A lie must strike from the bottom up.”
The politicians, furious at first to be excluded from their own club, were rumored to have gathered together in some New York penthouse to grumble over what they’d lost, and were in the process of planning a full-scale counter-revolution of the highest order when the former chairman himself, who had spoken not a word since his guests had arrived, began to double over with laughter. He had retired to the balcony, and none dared follow; but when they heard his howls they had come to see what was the matter. “Gentleman,” he famously declared, “What in the sam hell’re we so worried about?”
New York lay sparkling beneath them like a jewel to be cut, polished, and sold back to those who should have owned it from day one. Later that evening it’s told the chairmen, his few closest advisors, and the chief of police made a good racket by going from speakeasy to speakeasy, drinking the place out of liquor, then sending in the vice once they’d made their departure to the next hole in the wall.
That’s the story, if you believe it. I can’t imagine them retiring from a fight so easily; but history, she has a way of making everything into a lie without any of our help.
As for me and my accomplishments? As for what it was exactly that led me to raise my glass to the great seal above my head? Well, my resume is anything but glamourous. We all learn to lie because of our parents. And the more religious your parents are the better a liar you become. My father’s love was more of what you’d call the Old Testament variety, with many a slinging of belts and fists and bottles in my direction. When I wasn’t close enough, he’d call me over to his side, very kindly at first, then he’d wop me atop the head with the sole of the shoe he was shining for instance, and when a prop did not manifest itself old dad was never shy to bruise his own knuckles. God bless him. If it weren’t for him, I’d never have got so good at lying.
Truth is, that my dad was probably a really responsible guy. Though truth, she distances herself as far from us as she can. But, to be quite honest, I am often ashamed at how utterly realistic my lies are; and if all’s to be out I must go ahead and say I do admire and even envy a good bit of surrealism now and then. That’s how I came to marry an Irish girl, in fact.
After learning to lie to my father, my mother was no trouble. This cascaded into a watershed of fiction beginning with my first days in school. I was a profound excuse-maker. Once, I even got the teacher to believe she had assigned herself homework. It was that day, I believe, when I first heard my calling. I was canonized on the spot, into something of a God for the rest of that week; children brought me ice-creams, fake Spanish dubloons from Radio Show Contests, Civil War antiques, and they asked me for advice on how best to break their failed test grades to their parents.
It could only go one way for me, I figured. I had a talent; and God was sparing with those, as my father had said. And he never lied, except to my mother. And never about God.
He told me once, “That good lord, he can see into your heart, son. There’s no way you can hide from him.” Which is why I resolved then, that if I ever did encounter God I would not try to outfox the master himself; but so long as I was dealing with mere mortals, I figured, What the hell?
Lying got grades changed, got wicked teachers fired, got bullies sent to the principal’s office never to return. Lying got me into one of the best colleges in the nation where, naturally, I began to study psychology, history, and prepare myself for a career in law.
I made quite a name for myself as a champion of the common man, a feared predator of industry; but, as luck would have it, I grew more despondent by the day.
I’d come to realize the hard fact of life: that you can only lie so much to a shrewd woman before she comes to learn your tricks. The divorce was an unhappy one; especially because we weren’t even married at the time, though I had been telling everyone I knew that we had been for years. The stories got out of control and, frankly, I lost interest in the game.
For a while there I even began to tell the truth, to anyone who would listen. You could find me in bars, at the lonely, vacated end on a stool, hoping to pull some sad sucker into a conversation of the highest moral ground. I was often alone in those days, because who wants to hang out with a grim truth teller? I lost interest in shaving; I lost my practice when I admitted in court that half of the evidence was fabricated; and then I met Silus Hornsby.
I had corralled him into one of these epic diatribes on the state of our nation one night. He was new to the area, he’d said; and that was all I needed. After listening quite patiently for nearly an hour, I let Silus have the floor. He told me many things; and yet, nagging at my throat the whole time, was the certainty that everything this man was feeding me was as fresh as the beer they brewed right here on site.
“I don’t believe a word of it,” I finally said. “That part about the Prince of Spain paying you to purposefully destabilize the Spanish language with dialects…It just–”
“Sounds a little…untrue?” Hornsby asked with a smile the size of which might have split his head wide open.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“My friend, that’s of little importance,” Silus told me. “You are who we all used to talk about.” He gathered his cigarettes from the bar and with a loud, chest-clearing cough said, “I’ll tell you one thing, though, before I go; a liar who goes straight will never find his way in the world. The truth just isn’t convincing enough coming from our hackneyed lips. All you end up doing is sounding like you’re making raspberries…”
He grinned again that too wide mask, head-splitting grin, “”You know, I bet… I bet you can’t even stretch a few facts, just for fun anymore.”
And so I was introduced to the ‘Order of the Beneficent Prevaricators.’ It was an honorary membership, they told me; a conditional acceptance made based upon my former accomplishments; but it was just a probationary period. If, at the end of one year, I had not turned myself around, I would be thrown out onto the curb. “And that,” they all said, with that same wry smirk of Silus’, “Was no lie.”
The throwing out of the politicians itself was just an effect of the great schism that had occurred within the order some fifty years back. Sir Thomas Snively was a humanist to his very core, and he could not just sit back and tell stories to the charwomen while men of dubious character raped and realigned the faith so that it stunk of wealth and self-importance. His creed has been engraved upon our seal from that very day: “A lie must strike from the bottom up.” Seeing this, and the jester beneath it, who is our mascot, tickling the feet of kings while he robs their royal pockets, emboldened me to the challenge.
This time I did not set about directly to open up my legal practice again, but went the route of conservation; inventing new species at whim, getting tracts of land taken off the auction block and returned to the public’s hands instead of being fenced away so that certain fat cats could look unencumbered upon a horizon all their own. Finally, with a stroke of fiction, I convinced the state of North Dakota that it did not exist, and for this I was awarded the legion’s greatest honor.
“Tonight I stand before you, a man again, because of your help.” I straighten my bowtie. I shuffle and restack my notecards.
“The long accomplishments of my career have been recorded faithfully into the book of chairmans by our clerk,” I speak into the microphone, “What little truth there is to the record is anyone’s guess. Now I stand before you, my esteemed colleagues, who I can for the first time in my life call the most litigious group of unscrupulous bastards I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.”
“Here here,” the shout comes up. “Three cheers for the World’s Greatest Liar.” The whole crowd erupts before me. “Speech.” “Speech!” They shout. And as I pull from my breast pocket the additional note cards I have hidden there, a hush falls over the audience, until they all realize the cards are blank.
“Here here! Here here!”
And now for the dance break…
I’d be lying if I said we didn’t know how to have fun.
But don’t go just yet, I’ve only just begun…