by Alexandra Jade Goh-McMillen
One of my favourites is definitely the time it was a shark attack.
“I was just off the coast of Bermuda, swimming carefree as you like, and there it was: a great white shark!” Most people are so impressed by the idea of me, twenty-nothing and scrawny as heck, fighting off a shark with my bare hands to catch on to the location changing two or three or ten times as I go on with the story. Sometimes I’ll throw in a made-up place that sounds vaguely like it might be an island, just for kicks.
In other cases – other places, like with Mom or Pop or Gran and Gramps who’d get all worried about a shark – I’ll say it was just a dog. About the right size for that, my set of two scars about the size and shape a bite mark might be. Yes, it must’ve been a dog, a huge, rabid dog about to charge at a couple of innocent little kids had I not been there to stop it. That kind of thing really sits well with family friends and little old ladies.
Even better for sympathy points with the prim and proper proud is the idea of both scars being from repeated blood donation. Now, I don’t know if either of them is consistent with what a needle scar might look like, or if giving blood can leave scars in the first place, but neither do the people who get all starry eyed and commend me for that particular selfless act. After all, I’ve never done it and neither have they — that’s the whole reason they’re so impressed, so willing to believe. They want to believe someone had the courage or opportunity or what have you to do things they never have and probably never will. A kind of vicarious living, you could say — one that hinges on an interesting idea rather than any real proof. If you draw them in, they’ll believe like a kid believes in tooth fairies and monsters in the closet.
Speaking of kids, there’s no better audience than literal children. I tell them as outlandish a tale as I feel like on that particular day, and they drink it all in, hanging on to every word and asking no questions that can’t be resolved by taking the story in an even less believable direction. Ever since I took a desk job at the bank, I’ve had the neighbours’ sons thoroughly convinced that it’s an occupation fraught with danger through some yarn about the bigger scar being from a particularly heated pencil fight. Of course, before that, they’d heard about my adventures as a swashbuckling musketeer in Corsica two hundred years ago, which may serve as proof that people will swallow anything if you give it to them the right way.
Mind you, some things are a harder sell than others. Nobody believes it when I tell them the scars are from nearly being swallowed by a rattlesnake, for example, nor do they do anything but call my bluff when I claim to have been bitten by a boa constrictor. And don’t get me started on fish stories. Maybe that’s where we get the word “fishy”: everyone’s a skeptic when you blame it on a fish.
“Oh, no way! Fish are so cute and colourful and cuddly!” No. They’re really not. A fish bite is much more likely than a freak pencil accident or a blood donation, to be honest. Have you seen some of those critters? Downright blood-curdling, the size of the teeth they’ve got on ’em. But I digress.
All that talk of teeth reminds me, teenagers tend to have a strange fixation on saws and gears and things. You should see it, the way their eyes light up when I say I got the scars on my arm from a tussle with a huge wind-up toy or an accident while cutting down trees. Remember, rule of thumb: the wilder the tale, the better the reaction if you can pass it off.
In the end, I doubt I’ll ever tell anyone the real story of where those scars came from. After all, where’s the fun in a simple mishap with a stapler?