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Tall Tales by Calla Smith


“I’m an airplane pilot,” the man said. He had had a few beers in the hotel’s bar by then, even though it had only opened about an hour ago. He was talking to the barman; there was no one else to talk to, and he had the face of a man who would constantly chatter away at whoever was in front of him. In the supermarket, while he stood in line. Waiting to cross the street. The kind of person you don’t bother taking your headphones out to listen; just nod and try to go on with your day.

“I just finished a flight from Qatar to Buenos Aires. You know, the World Cup was in Qatar this year. And Argentina won.” The bartender nodded. He had heard about it countless times from the Argentinians who had stayed at the hotel.

“Of course, the team had their own jet and pilots. But one of the older players who went with the team, even though they weren’t playing anymore, stayed behind. He got a little too caught up in the parties.” The man leaned in, stroking his well-groomed mustache. “I can’t name names. But he was on my flight. He was a mess.” The other barmen smiled and nodded. They weren’t really sure if they believed him but bombarded him with questions anyway.

The player hadn’t been alone, but with a local celebrity who tried-and-failed- to disguise her identity as she was married.

After a few more drinks, the man made his way to the door, straightening his tie until it once again sat on his neck in a strict line. He smoothed his lapels and lit a cigarette while he waited for a taxi. When one pulled up, he snubbed the cigarette out and slid into the back seat. He gave the driver his address and started some small talk about the weather. When the driver asked what he did, he sighed.

“I’m a lawyer,” he explained. “I’m in town for a terrible case--that poor mother and her children. So sad.” The driver nodded, trying to think of what it could be. It was a big city; it could have been so many different things if a mother and child were involved.

“It wasn’t the husband,” the man offered. “I’m very close to proving it was the best friend.”

The driver didn’t comment, even though he knew it was always the husband. Instead, he let the man out at a house full of lights, where people seemed to spill out onto the sidewalk like driftwood in a river.

The man took off his coat and thrust his tie into his pocket. He walked casually to the door and slipped into the kitchen to get his drink. There, he found a slim woman dressed in jeans and an emerald green sweater.

“Hello,” he said, grabbing a beer from the table. “I’m David.”

“Naomi,” she replied. “So, who do you know at the party?”

“John,” he said. “I went to school with him.”

“So you’re an accountant as well?”

“Afraid so,” he quipped. “I know, it’s terribly boring.”

Just then, another man entered the kitchen. He was taller and bulkier but bore a marked resemblance to the man.

“I don’t know what he’s been telling you,” he told Naomi. “But don’t believe him. Terrible liar.” He grabbed the man in a bear hug, hanging off his shoulder. “He’s my little brother Sean. The man of many identities.”

Sean smiled sheepishly.

“Don’t be angry,” he said. “This is the only way I can actually be someone.”

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