WAGER | 2018-09-06 | daily-sun.com

Short Story

WAGER

Iraad Khan     6 September, 2018 12:00 AM printer

WAGER

Ricky claimed that his friend Martin had stolen his iPod. Martin said Ricky was lying and that he hadn’t. Ricky stood adamant that Martin had. Martin said Ricky was lying when he said Martin was lying that he had stolen it.

Who was really lying?

Nobody but the liar knew.

Who was the liar?

That had to be investigated and found out, so both of their parents were called to the vice principal’s office. First to come were Ricky’s parents, and the three of them sat and waited until Martin’s parents rushed in.

The principal, Mr. Johnson, explained the situation to both of their parents. Within a second after Mr. Johnson had finished talking, Ricky’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Conan burst out in protest. Within a second after the Conans’ burst out in protest, the Tuckers did the same.  

The bald Mr. Johnson sighed and massaged his temples. He had already gone through a hectic week and was exhausted, although the level of stress was like any other week that he endured. He had hoped that Friday would kick-start a serene weekend that would see his exhaustion fading off. But now he felt that hope fading off.

Mr. Johnson held up his hands, signaling for quiet. The parents did quiet down, although not quite. They remained tense and fidgety.

Just at that second, the senior coordinator Mr. Greene knocked and entered. He had been called to the office by Johnson himself, who couldn’t handle this kind of a situation alone, given the workload he was already handling. Plus, Greene was good at this kind of situations.

  Greene seated himself beside Johnson.

  “So,” Johnson started. “Ricky here” – he pointed at Ricky – “claims that Martin” – he pointed at Martin – “stole his iPod. Martin says that he didn’t. That’s basically the situation here. Oh, and also the fact that they were fist-fighting in the parking lot. You’re both going to get detention for that, regardless of who started it.”

  Greene said, “Well, there are three sides to every story - your side, their side, and the truth. So, Martin, why don’t you tell us your side of the story first?”

  “My side is the truth,” Martin said. “My dad bought me an iPod two weeks ago. I brought it to school sometimes, but I never gave it to anyone. Then out of nowhere, this guy comes and tells me to return his iPod, as if he has one. Like he could afford —”

  “Martin, Martin, why don’t you just stick to the story? Taunting can be done later,” said Johnson.

“OK, so basically I had this iPod and he came and said that it was his and I had stolen it or whatever. I don’t know, it’s like being famous — people start to lie about you and spread fake rumors and stuff like that. I mean, I am the most popular guy in school, so a thing like this had to happen, I guess.” He finished with a shrug.

Greene gave a wry smile. Then he turned to Martin’s parents and asked, “It is true? Did you buy him an iPod?”

“Yes, I did,” his dad said promptly.

“When did you buy it?”

“Just two weeks ago.”

“Do you have the receipt?”

Martin’s dad nodded. “Yes, we do.”

Martin gave a smug grin.

“Where is it? Do you have it right now?”

“Right now? What, do you walk around with the receipt of something you bought two weeks ago? No, I don’t have it right now, it’s at home.”

“Well, bring the receipt then,” John said irritably, checking the time. “Please bring it as fast as you can. Come on people, it’s the last day of the week. Let’s end this.”

 Martin’s dad left. In that time, Greene enquired Ricky.

“What about your side of the story Ricky?”

Ricky said, “I had my own iPod. One day he came and told me if I could lend him my iPod for a couple of days.” He shrugged. “So I did.”

“Then?”

“He didn’t give it back even after three or four days, so I told him to, but he asked if he could keep it for a couple more days. I said, ‘Alright’. But when he still didn’t, I went to him and he said to stop bothering him and that he didn’t know what I was talking about.”

When Martin’s father returned with the receipt, Johnson opened a drawer and took out the object in question — a 4th generation iPod.

Greene took the receipt and examined it. The day of purchase was dated to two weeks back. So what Martin was saying was true, he thought. He showed Johnson the receipt. Johnson nodded, but Greene wasn’t finished.

“This receipt looks valid,” he said.

Martin sighed audibly, and everyone eyed Ricky. Ricky didn’t look guilty; he looked utterly perplexed. He babbled , “But—but— that’s not possible! I swear he took the iPod from me. My iPod is the one you’re holding right now!”

The iPod was encased in a thick black cover, and it was impossible to tell what colour it was.

“What colour is your iPod, Ricky?”

“Black.”

Greene turned to Martin and asked the same question. Martin replied with the same answer.

He looked at the receipt again, according to which, the colour was black. He showed it to Martin and Ricky, and said, “Is this the one?”

  “Yeah,” said Martin.  “That’s mine!”

  “That’s the one he stole from me!” Said Ricky.

  “Yes, that’s my son’s iPod,” Mr. Conan corroborated.

  “No, that’s what I bought for my son,” Mr. Tucker loudly.

  They saw Greene’s hands in motion underneath the desk. They saw him look at the receipt, and a wry smile spread over his face.

  “Well, I do believe you Mr. Tucker,” he said. “This is proof that you did buy him an iPod.”

  Martin gave a this-is-what-I’ve-been-telling-you-all-this-while-suckers look. Mr. Tucker already made to leave, angry that their time had been wasted for no reason at all, when Greene said, “The only thing is, this is not the iPod you bought him.”

  “What do you mean ‘This is not the iPod’?” Tucker almost yelled. “I just showed you a freaking receipt, didn’t I?”

  “This is nonsense!” said Mrs. Tucker.

  All this while, now that Greene was handling the situation and Johnson had taken the backseat, he looked as though he was rather enjoying himself.

  “Calm down, please,” said Greene. “I’m not saying you didn’t buy him one, all I’m saying is that this is not the one you bought — ”

   “That is complete — ”

   “Because the code numbers do not match.”

   There was a moment of silence. Greene broke it.

  “The date of purchase on this receipt shows, coincidentally, that it’s the same day Ricky claims he bought his one, and the same day Martin bought his one. The colours are also same – black. Both the models are the same. Height of coincidences, isn’t it?”

  Another moment of silence. Then Mr. Conan said:

  “But you didn’t need to do all of that. You could’ve just asked Ricky to unlock it. That would have proved it’s his.”

  Johnson palmed his forehead, amazed that this had not occurred to him. Greene, however said, “You’re right Mr. Conan, we could’ve done this right in the beginning. Here, Ricky, unlock it.”

  He handed the iPod to Ricky, and Ricky entered the pass code. Apparently, he had given the wrong pass code, so he tried again. And again. He frowned.

  “What’s the matter, can’t unlock it?” Greene asked.

  “But-but-” Ricky spluttered, shaking his head unbelievingly.

  Greene turned to Martin and said, “Well, we know that this is not your iPod, Martin. But why don’t you have try unlocking it.”

  “I think he changed the pass code,” Ricky said suddenly. “When I had given it to him, I had told him what the code was, but I think he changed the code afterwards.”

  Greene took the gadget from Ricky’s hands and gave it to Martin, who looked a little reluctant to take it, but took it anyway.

  “Unlock it, Martin.”

  “Didn’t you say that this is not Martin’s?” said Mr. Tucker, loud and angry. “But you expect him to unlock it?”

  “This is not his, but he has been claiming it’s his all this while, hasn’t he?” Greene said, eyebrows raised.

  “So there’s obviously been a mix-up,” said Mrs. Tucker. “Maybe he stole Martin’s iPod and lied about it  — ”

  The Conans were outraged, and protested at once.

  “Either unlock it, Martin, or tell us the truth.” Greene said loudly over the commotion, and everyone quieted to look at Martin. “I know you can do both.”

   Greene looked at Martin both persuasively and encouragingly. Martin gave Greene a look that hinted helplessness, then after a moment, when Greene nodded at him, he sighed, gulped, and said, “I lied.”

  The atmosphere changed in an instant. The Conans looked angrier than ever, although not saying anything, as they turned in their chairs to look at the Tuckers, and the Tuckers looked more surprised than embarrassed.

  Greene nodded at Martin again, and it looked as though it was taking a huge effort for Martin to speak, but he ultimately did.

  “I got my iPod two weeks ago, and I, I was, err, I put a bet on my team to win the World Cup, but, err, they didn’t, so… those guys came to me and asked for the money I owed them, but I didn’t have it. I told them that I err, I will give them their money, but err, they wanted it right then, and so they snatched my iPod.”

  The Tuckers looked shocked, but didn’t speak, and neither did Martin.

  Greene helped him finish. “So you didn’t know what to say to your parents, right? You thought you would be in deep trouble if your parents found out that you had lost a brand new iPod.”

  Martin gave the slightest nod.

  “So,” Greene continued. “You borrowed Ricky’s iPod so that you could show your parents something, and they didn’t suspect you of losing it. You said you would return it to him, but you didn’t, so he told you to do so, but by that time you acted as though you owned his iPod, as if he was bothering you for no reason.”

  Martin didn’t agree, but didn’t deny it either.

  “Now you’ve changed the pass code, too, didn’t you? So that no one believes Ricky and it looks like the iPod is yours. You had the receipt, too, and the coincidence of both of you buying the same thing on the same day almost saved you, but a code number made all the difference.”

   A long pause followed, in which the Conans eyed the Tuckers, and the latter looked deeply embarrassed.

  “Well, now that the matter is settled,” said Principal Johnson, looking relieved. “Martin, you are going to be in detention for a week. And your punishment will be something much more mundane than lines.” He turned to the Conans and said, “We are sorry for your inconvenience. You are free to go. Thank you.”

  They all stood up to leave, Martin’s father looking as though he was going to whack his son as soon as they left the room.

  Johnson stretched his arms over his head and said, “What an entertaining start to the weekend. Honestly, Greene, you should’ve been a detective.”

  “Yeah, should’ve been.”

  “Really, thanks for solving this.”

  “Anytime,” said Greene, and walked out.


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