Scene I: Friday evening, kitchen table
JAMES’S FATHER (eyes narrowed): So, once again we find ourselves in this situation. For the fourth time, you’ve been lying to us.
JAMES (in his head): Four times that you know of. (aloud) I don’t think it’s really been four times. What were the others?
JAMES’S MOTHER outlines each of the three previous occasions. JAMES argues that at none of those times was he lying, and that this is a different situation. He wins 1 of 3 rounds.
JAMES’S FATHER (exasperated): Three times, four times, what’s the fucking difference?! What matters is for the nth time, you have deliberately deceived us over months, and I don’t know why.
JAMES: Neither do I.
JAMES’S FATHER: No, that’s not going to fly anymore. You must know why you lie.
JAMES (breathless) : It’s just an impulse. I don’t know why I do it. I can’t stop myself.
JAMES’S FATHER: Don’t give us all this “it’s just an impulse” bullshit. You made a choice to lie each time you spoke to us and you did it comfortably.
JAMES (internally admiring his father’s shrewdness): No! I didn’t do it on purpose-
JAMES’S FATHER (cutting James off): You knowingly and comfortably lied to us over months. You deliberately hurt us.
JAMES (truthfully): I did not lie to hurt you. (in head) I lied to benefit me. You didn’t come into the equation.
JAMES’S FATHER (shouting): You lied knowing you would hurt us. You deliberately hurt us.
JAMES (shouting back): NO! I didn’t lie to hurt you! I mean, I knew the consequences if you found out, but you weren’t supposed to find out.
JAMES’S MOTHER: You may not have set out to hurt us, but that’s the result.
JAMES (flatly): Yes.
JAMES’S FATHER: So come on, why did you do it? I want an explanation.
JAMES (long silence): I don’t know what to say. (another long silence) I have nothing to say.
JAMES’S FATHER: Do you know right from wrong?
JAMES (quickly) Yes. (pause) I mean I think I do. Who knows at this point? I don’t know. I feel bad for hurting you, if that’s the same thing.
JAMES’S FATHER: Then why did you lie
JAMES shrugs, but says nothing. After a whole minute:
JAMES’S FATHER: Well I’m not going to sit here while you say nothing. If that’s the best explanation you can give, I guess we’ll have to take it. But I don’t know how we can trust you ever again, knowing how easily and convincingly you lie. We want to trust you, but there’ll always be a niggling doubt in the back of our minds. I want to believe you.
JAMES (deciding now is not the time to make an ‘X Files’ joke): Yes, okay.
JAMES’S MOTHER bursts into tears and runs from the room. JAMES looks at his father impassively.
JAMES’S FATHER: You should go after your mother.
JAMES: I don’t know what to say.
JAMES’S FATHER (shouting again): How about telling her you’re sorry you hurt her?
Scene II: Monday lunchtime. JAMES’S MOTHER’S garden, where she has been chatting to her son and sitting on a bench
JAMES’S MOTHER: I know you won’t like this, but I have to ask anyway. All those times you were telling me how useless [person] was and how she was so disorganised and feckless, that was all made up, wasn’t it?
JAMES: Yeah, it was.
JAMES’S MOTHER (gobsmacked): You had me stressed out and really hating that woman for putting you through so much, but it was all just fabricated.
JAMES (half-smile): Well I was just describing myself, wasn’t I? I was the disorganised one, so I was just using her as a scapegoat.
They sit in silence for a few moments. Then, JAMES’S MOTHER asks why JAMES told a lie a certain way, when he had told similar lies in a consistent, but different way.
JAMES’S MOTHER: Why didn’t you just follow the same pattern?
JAMES (genuinely stumped): Hmm, I don’t know. Maybe for variety? But it was back in December, so I’m really not sure. Interesting question.
JAMES’S MOTHER (still disgruntled, but with a note of pride): You put a lot of detail into your lies, don’t you? A lot of unnecessary stuff, but you get really committed to the story, I’ll give you that.
JAMES: Um, thanks, Mum.
They smile at each other genuinely