In yesterday's post I described the crime I committed; stealing change off my father's dresser. He had laid a trap for the culprit, counting his change carefully each evening and now the family was gathered together for the showdown. As is typical in these family tribunals, my father would describe the crime and give the guilty a chance to come forward and admit to it, saving him the trouble of proving their guilt. Why he thought this would ever happen I am still, to this day, baffled. The punishment would be the same if you admitted your guilt or were caught, so it always paid to lie. My two sisters and I understood this dynamic well. It was also understood that the guilty party was most likely me in any major crime. My two sisters never committed heinous acts of any kind; that was left to me. My mother always defended my presumed innocence, my father and sisters knew better. Gotta love moms. We were told to go out in the backyard and wait while my parents searched our rooms for evidence. Having previously hidden the evidence outside on the window sill, the chances of them finding it in my room were slim. I also knew my father was hoping not to find evidence so he could fire up his Heathkit lie detector and try it out. This was the moment he'd been hoping for; a real crime in the family and three children to test the accuracy of the detector. He was hopeful of an inquisition. The mistake my father made was explaining to me how the lie detector worked: measuring the galvanic skin response that would vary according to how much someone sweated. The theory was simple: those that lie sweat and worry in the face of inquisition for fear of discovery and punishment. Knowing this I simply went to the paint shed outside our garage, opened a can of varnish and coated my hands with it. My sisters watched me do this without any clue as to why and I certainly wasn't going to tell them. Finally the moment had arrived. My father, having found no evidence in our rooms, set the lie detector up on the kitchen table and prepared to grille each of the suspects. I am surprised to this day he did not have a bright lamp bearing down on us to increase the drama. My mother stood to the side wringing her hands, feeling the entire situation was out of control that fine Saturday morning and worried my father'd gone off his rocker. She wasn't far from wrong. I was first to sit down as it was assumed by all but my mother it was me that committed the crime. I am sure my father assumed the meter would be pegged within seconds. I gripped the electrodes, one in each hand and the questions began. First my name, then my age to establish the machine worked when I told the truth. Finally the $64,000 question was asked. "Did you steal the money from my dresser?" asked Dad. I remember well the look on his face, like that of a cat with a canary in its sights. "No," said I. The meter barely moved. My heart was racing and I am sure I was sweating badly but the varnish on my hands formed a barrier the moisture could not penetrate. The question was repeated multiple times with the same results. I could see the disappointment on my father's face. My two sisters were next. Sharane, the middle child did ok although she moved the meter into the middle questioning area. My youngest sister Bobbi, unfortunately, was terrified. The poor kid had no clue what was going on and was sobbing the entire time, her hands wet with tears and sweat. She pegged the meter when asked what her name was. Her hands were cleaned and he tried again. When the key question was again asked she pegged that meter to the right so hard you could hear it click against the needle stop. Poor Bobbi. She took one for me. I think it was a hairbrush across her backside. The lie detector was later relegated to the attic. My father never did figure out how I beat his machine, my mother just glad the insanity had passed. To this day my sister has never forgiven me.
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